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[personal profile] doodlemaier posting in [community profile] bee_folk
Some sage advice for all beeks:

– Ian Craig (the Australian Beekeeper, May 2014)

Bees can be stressed by too frequent disturbance by the beekeeper during the year and especially in winter. A great deal of information can be gleaned by observation, without opening the hive. Hives showing some sort of abnormality should be noted and be subject to a closer examination when weather permits.

SMALL PARTICLES OF WAX
When bees are confined to their hive for long periods in winter, the appearance of small dust-like particles of wax at the hive entrance is a sign that the bees are uncapping and eating into their stores and that all is well. Hives should be ‘hefted’ from the rear in order to ensure that the colonies have enough food.

MEDIUM PARTICLES OF WAX
Particles in autumn, wax particles up to 2.5mm suggests robbing by other bees or wasps. The robbers are in a hurry to tear down cappings and make their escape.

LARGE PIECES OF WAX
In winter, if wax pieces up to 12mm are seen at the entrance it suggests that a mouse in residence. Mice can nest in the hive, feed on honey and urinate on combs. Combs soiled by mice never can be used by surviving bees, and should be disposed of and a clean floorboard.

SMALL WAX PLATELETS
Prior to the start of summer, small platelets of wax can sometimes be seen at the hive entrance. This indicates there is a surplus of young wax secreting bees. A frame of new foundation should be given.

POLLEN LOADS
Small pollen pellets on workers’ corbiculae early in the season is an indication that small amounts of pollen are available. At other times large pellets indicate a laying queen with plenty of hungry larvae to feed.

HARD, GREY POLLEN PELLETS
These are often seen on the alighting board when bees are expanding their brood nest in spring. They are usually the size of a worker cell, resemble chalk brood, but are brittle and if crushed, break up into layers.
They are a sign that some pollen stored in autumn had not been covered with honey and sealed. A late autumn syrup feed may have prevented this loss of pollen. Combs with large patches of hard pollen are usually eaten down to the mid-rib by the bees in an attempt to remove the pollen. Combs like this should be removed by the beekeeper at the first opportunity.

CHALK BROOD MUMMIES
These are flatter than moldy pollen and are like poorly developed pupae and do not crumble into layers. They can be whitish or almost black with fungal fruiting spores.

WHITE GRUBS
If the colony is on the verge of starvation they eject first drone pupae, then worker pupae. This is an indication that immediate feeding is required. Occasionally long, thin caterpillar-like grubs are ejected. These are an indication of the presence of wax moths. It is also an indication that some very old abandoned combs are in the hive.

FEW BEES FLYING IN EARLY SPRING
If fewer bees are flying from a hive than others in the apiary, especially in winter or early spring, it might be an indication that the strain of bees does not fly in cold weather or that the hive is in the shade, or it might indication a weak or diseased colony. Such colonies should not be united to another until the cause of the weakness is ascertained.

DRONES FLYING
In September, this is a sign of an early colony build-up. In late autumn it is a sign that the bees are unhappy with their queen. She may be un-mated or failing.

DRONES BEING EJECTED
This is a normal occurrence in early autumn and is an indication that all is well, in summer it is a sign of starvation or that the hive has been satisfactorily re-queened by supercedure or by the beekeeper and has no further need for drones.

SMALL DRONES
If these are seen flying or on the alighting board of a weak hive, they are a sign that the colony has laying workers or a drone-laying queen. It is futile trying to re-queen such colonies.

DEAD BEES ON THE GROUND AT ENTRANCE
During the year, bees are continually removing the dead bees and dropping them some distance from the hive. During a mild day in early spring, bees in a healthy colony can often be seen clearing out bees which have dropped off the winter cluster. Such bees usually form a small pile at the entrance.

CHEMICAL POISONING
In good weather when bees are foraging, if the number of flying bees is less than usual and large numbers of dead bees, usually with their proboscis extended, are in a pile on the ground outside the hive entrance, that is a sign of chemical poisoning.

BEES CLUSTERING ON THE HIVE FRONT
This could be a sign of overcrowding, lack of ventilation or a surplus of young bees due to a reduction in the queen’s egg laying in autumn or during a honey flow. It is also a common occurrence when supers have been removed from a single brood chamber colony at the end of the honey flow.

BROWN SMEARS ON THE HIVE FRONT
This can be caused by a number of factors. The colony could have gone into the winter with some unsealed stores of honey or sugar syrup which had fermented because of their intake of dampness, causing dysentery in early spring. Spring dysentery is also, but not necessarily, a sign of Nosema. On a cold spring day when nurse bees are eating large quantities of stored pollen their rectums will rapidly fill with pollen husks which they struggle to get rid of in poor flying conditions, forcing them to defecate on or near the hive.

HONEY FLOW
During a honey flow, bees are flying in and out of the entrance in vast numbers. They are in a good mood, intent on harvesting as much nectar as possible. In the evening, there will be a strong scent of nectar flavored water being evaporated and condensed moisture will be seen on the alighting board.

FANNING BEES
Bees fanning at the entrance can be a normal process of ventilation especially in hot weather or the evaporation of excess moisture when ripening honey. At first glance robber bees resemble returning foragers during a honey flow, but on closer inspection they usually hover momentarily with their legs hanging down, before deciding to try and enter the hive. The robbers’ abdomens may be shiny due to the nibbling of guard bees and they will never be carrying pollen loads. Clusters of guard bees will be confronting them at the entrance and fighting will also occur.

NOISE UNDER THE LID
In early spring, if you put your ear to the vents and give the side of the hive a few taps a queen-right colony will emit a gentle ‘hiss’ which quickly subsides. A queenless colony will emit a characteristic ‘roar’.

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