Queen Regina Margherita of the House of Savoy (Aka: Queen Marge) continues to impress. Going into the winter, her hives benchmark weight was 67.2 lbs. There was a daily fluctuation of 1.5 lbs. when the weather was warm and the bees were able to vacate the hive for cleansing and orientation flights.
The hive recently has experienced a dramatic weight drop. After losing ten pounds in a little over two months, it went from 57 lbs. to 52.6 lbs. in the last two weeks (purple bubble). Something was up with Marge and her minions. Only a hive inspection would allow me the opportunity to see what the girls were up to. Last Sunday’s brilliant 72° and sunny sky’s gave me that chance.
Before I enter a hive, I peer over the top and look down onto the landing board. This gives me the first impression of what’s going on inside: what are the numbers of bees coming and going? Are foraging bees coming in with pollen? If so, what kind? Are guard bees fighting off looters? I witnessed a steady flow of calm, but busy bees entering and exiting the hive. Foragers were coming in loaded with bright yellow and grey pollen, indicating dandelion and red maple were in bloom. This foraging behavior is the cause for a daily 1 lb. hive weight drop (yellow bubble).
After smoking the hive, I first checked the stores of honey in the medium super. Satisfied they had enough resources for the rest of the winter, I worked my way down into the brood box. I always begin the process by pulling the second frame to the right. This diminishes the chance of me rolling (killing) the queen. I saw a small amount of capped brood in this frame. As I pulled more frames, I saw ever-larger clusters of eggs, then open and capped brood. When I pulled the fifth frame, I saw Queen Marge busily sticking her head into a cell to verify cleanliness. The cell must have passed her Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval because she promptly stuck her abdomen into it and deposited an egg. She then moved onto the next cell and repeated the process, her retinue busily attending her every step of the way. I saw all I needed and quickly closed the hive.
Unseasonably warm weather is causing an early bloom of red maple and dandelion. Foraging bees are logging more flight hours to fetch pollen. Pollen is much needed protein to feed the brood. The weight gains are incredible for a worker bee larva. The moment an egg is laid by the queen to the time a larvae reaches full maturity, the worker bee larvae’s weight increases 700 fold. Queen Marge’s subordinates are dutifully fulfilling their duties. Forager bees are collecting food for the brood. Nurse bees are tending their charges. At night, all the bees collect around the queen and her brood to keep them warm. It’s all hands on deck for spring and possible swarming activity. Honey is needed to fuel all this activity. That is why Queen Regina Margherita’s hive is losing weight.