It’s been a few weeks since I sugared my bees.  After being stung once again while filling their sugar syrup, I’ve been reluctant to open the hive while the weather is still a bit chilly.  I’ve been checking the sticky board regularly and finding a disturbing number of mites on it, so I knew I needed to increase my efforts at mite control.  I spoke with my beekeeper friend about options, and checked out methods local beekeepers have posted online.  I decided on something considered a “soft” chemical treatment called Apiguard that uses thymol, a primary ingredient in thyme oil, as my next-level choice. 

I opened the hive with the intention of placing the Apiguard and a new pollen patty, and discovered bees everywhere: throughout the frames as expected, but also along the sides of the hive body and at the bottom. Even more exciting is that I found a couple drones. These are the only male bees in the colony. I had seen pictures of them, but hadn’t actually seen one so it took me a minute to figure out what I was seeing. At first, I thought my queen had lost her blue mark because the drones are quite a bit larger than the workers. Then I noticed a couple peculiarities: 1) there was more than one of these larger bees and 2) they were unusually chunky looking. Drones! How cool! Unfortunately, Marc was not helping me film this inspection so the video I shot has only a single camera angle and does not have any close-ups of the drones (Inspection 011721). If only Jonah had thumbs, he could help.

Besides these first drones, I also noticed that the frames at the far side of the box that have been empty for months now have beautiful, freshly drawn, creamy white comb in them.  Which means the bees have been busily building again in preparation for spring’s arrival, and now the frames are nearly full with nowhere for them to go.  This would be a wonderful achievement for my mini-swarm-started colony, if I weren’t also finding more mites than I’d like and if we weren’t in a dry, La Nina year. 

Less rain means the blooming season is likely to be shorter, which also means there will be a limited amount of time for honey.  Either I can continue to expand my colony for another year and not worry about honey, or I can put honey supers on early and maybe have a wee harvest this year.  We’ve had one good rain so far this year, with more in the forecast this week.  The lemonadeberry is starting to bloom, and the canyon is full of it so I’m hoping they’ll have a feast in store for them, even if it doesn’t last long.  

The catch with the Apiguard treatment is that I’ve timed this all rather poorly since a full treatment takes three to four weeks and it must occur prior to placing honey supers.  Once complete, the super can be put on right away.  My current plan is to stop feeding the sugar syrup so they’ll eat some of their honey stores instead of the syrup and continue the Apiguard treatment that I started.  I’ll check the hive in two weeks and re-assess.  At that point, I’ll either place the second Apiguard treatment or stop treatment and install the honey super.  It will depend how the space is looking in two weeks.  Hopefully, I have time before they start getting ideas about swarming.  And next year, assuming mites are still an issue requiring treatment, I’ll treat the colony in the fall right after removing the honey supers.  Ah, the joys of learning!