Monday, December 6, 2010

Bee Pollen And Warfarin

I heard about a case study in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy which describes an interaction between bee pollen and warfarin resulting in an elevated INR. In other words, taking bee pollen along with warfarin (an anticoagulant or "blood thinner") could cause "thinner blood" and increase the chance of bleeding. I do have to mention that calling anticoagulants "blood thinners" is one of my pet peeves. The viscosity of blood is not affected; its ability to clot is.

The full article cannot be viewed without a password, but the abstract is available. If you could read the full article you would find that the interaction is most likely due to the variety of flavenoids in the bee pollen which inhibit warfarin metabolism by the liver. Anyway, you can read the abstract here if you would like.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I See Dead Bees

I know the bees are alive because I saw a bunch of their dead today.

We have had such a mild fall this year. We had highs in the 60's clear into November. The last few weeks have turned cold and snowy, though. I hadn't seen the bees in quite a while and then the snow came. It blew into the entrances and froze in place so the bees had no way to get out even if they wanted to. I pressed my ear against the sides of the hives and knocked- last winter I could always hear a buzz coming from inside, but this time I heard nothing. I was a little worried that they were not ready for the cold snap and that something had happened to them. I shouldn't have worried- bees have been taking care of themselves for millions of years.

I took a walk over to the hives today and saw some good news- dead bees. With the warmer temps the last few days the ice in the entrances melted and the bees began clearing out some of the dead that had accumulated inside the hives. There were about 10 dead bees laying on top of the snow in front of each hive. As the winter progresses we will find more bees that die and are cleared out by the bees left inside. They are very hygienic creatures.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crystallizing Honey

It's happening a little earlier than it did last year.

Last year we extracted honey in September and it finally started crystallizing in about March. This year we extracted at the beginning of September and we have been seeing signs of crystallization for a couple of weeks now. The honey is getting cloudier and cloudier. I guess this year there must have been more nectar sources with higher glucose contents. Honey with a high glucose content will crystallize more quickly and honey with a high fructose content will crystallize more slowly- it all depends on the nectar source. I could tell that this year's honey is a little different from last year's- it is a little darker in color and its flavor is, for lack of a better work, a little "fuller".

It really doesn't bother me that is crystallizing now- it is not difficult to reliquify. Besides that, a sticky honey jar is one of my pet peeves. We use a lot of our honey on top of oatmeal, and the kids are always stickifying the jar when they transfer honey to the oatmeal. Once it crystallizes the kids can scoop out some crystallized honey without making a mess- the honey relifquifies as it is mixed into the hot oatmeal. It's a win-win. The kids still get their honey and I don't have to deal with a sticky honey jar!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall Feeding

Fall is here and that means it is time to feed the bees.

At the beginning of September we harvested honey and stole all the honey the bees made this summer. Now it is time to make sure the bees have enough stores to get them through the winter. Since we pulled the honey early in September the bees had a fall nectar flow from sunflowers, goldenrod, and a few other blooms that occurred this fall. Besides their 2 deep hive bodies I left them each a medium super to fill back up with honey. To be sure they have enough, I am supplementing their feed with sugar syrup.

They say that in the fall you should make the sugar syrup in a 2:1 (sugar to water) mixture- this is supposed to stimulate honey storage. In the spring you are supposed to feed with sugar syrup in a 1:1 mixture to stimulate brood production. I don't know why this makes a difference to the bees, but that is what the experts say. Last fall I fed a 2:1 mixture but had problems with the sugar precipitating and clogging up the feeder. This year I am using a 1.5:1 mixture and it seems to be working pretty well.

The first gallon of sugar syrup given to each hive this fall also contained fumagillin. Fumagillin is an antibiotic used to treat and prevent nosema. Nosema is a protozoan that likes to infect the GI tract of honeybees and cause dysentery. Feeding on sugar syrup that contains fumagillin all winter will hopefully keep the bees good and healthy.

Hear is a photo looking inside the feeder.
Last year a lot of bees fell down into the syrup and drowned. This year I took a wire brush and roughed up the inside of the plexiglass shield to give the bees feet little ridges to cling to. I don't think I have found any dead bees in the feeder this fall.

This photo shows the bees close up.

You can see them lined up across the feeder sucking up the syrup as they prepare for winter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wasp Wars

This morning I walked past the hives and saw a bunch of activity in front of Virginia. There were several wasps trying to gain access to the hive. Every time one would try to get through the entrance the bees would gang up on it and drive it out. I saw one bee take on a wasp all by itself- the two wrestled for a couple of seconds on the front porch and then took flight while still locked together. They flew a couple of feet and fell to the ground. The bee then flew back to the entrance, turned to face the outside, and filled in the gap in the line of guard bees across the front. I am so proud of those girls!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unscrupulous Beekeepers?

Do you believe that such a thing exists? I suppose no industry is perfect.

The following article describes dishonest honey producing practices. The offenders should definitely be punished. My fear, though, is that some, as good intentioned as they may be, will get their way and the FDA will establish nation-wide honey standards. Sounds great- right? But the federal government will have no authority to do this and may (some would say "probably") end up requiring that honey producers prove that their honey is not adulterated. This would put the burden on the rest of the honest beekeepers who just want to be left alone to do what they have always done.

Remember what Thomas Jefferson said: "It is the natural order of things for government to grow and liberty to yield."

Government will always, in the name of improving our lives and keeping us secure, usurp our liberty UNLESS the people actively prevent that from happening.

I read another quote, also by Jefferson, I believe, that says "A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you have."

I'm not saying nothing should or could be done- but let's be careful what we ask for.

Anyway, here is the article:

RALEIGH, N.C. – You might call them the Honey Police — beekeepers and honey producers ready to comb through North Carolina to nab unscrupulous sellers of sweet-but-bogus "funny honey."

North Carolina is the latest state to create a standard that defines "pure honey" in a bid to curb the sale of products that have that label but are mostly corn syrup or other additives. Officials hope to enforce that standard with help from the 12,000 or so Tar Heel beekeepers.

"The beekeepers tend to watch what's being sold, they watch the roadside stands and the farmer's markets," said John Ambrose, an entomologist and bee expert at North Carolina State University who sits on the newly created Honey Standards Board.

Florida was the first state to adopt such standards in 2009. It's since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Similar efforts have been proposed in at least 12 other states, including North and South Dakota, the nation's largest producers of honey, together accounting for roughly one-third of U.S. output.

Beekeepers and honey packers around the country are fuming about products masquerading as real honey, and they hope the state-by-state strategy will secure their ultimate goal: a national rule banning the sale of any product as pure honey if it contains additives.

Americans consume about 350 million pounds of honey per year, but just 150 million pounds are made domestically, creating a booming market for importers and ample temptation to cut pure honey with additives such as corn syrup that are far less expensive to produce.

This month, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago announced the indictments of 11 German and Chinese executives and six companies on charges that they avoided nearly $80 million in honey tariffs and sold honey tainted with banned antibiotics.

The scale of the problem nationwide is hard to gauge. It's largely a concern for the big producers who make most of America's honey, said Bob Bauer, vice president of the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association.

"The honey industry is looking to be proactive and take whatever steps are necessary not only to keep it from becoming a widespread problem, but to get rid of it entirely," he said.

The most passionate supporters of the laws tend to be beekeepers and other small producers outraged at what they see as the corruption of their craft.

"They're trading on the good name of honey to sell their product," Kenosha, Wis., beekeeper Tim Fulton said of phony honey peddlers.

Ambrose said the North Carolina board — formed by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the state Beekeepers Association — won't be a "honey patrol."

The board will instead respond to complaints about improperly marketed honey, which under state law is now defined as what honeybees produce: no more, no less. Once a complaint has been received, a state-approved lab will test the product. If it's not pure honey, the state can order it to be removed from sale and impose fines for subsequent violations.

"You can go to roadside stands throughout the western part of the state and they'll try to sell you Karo syrup and swear it's sourwood honey," said Charles Heatherly, a North Carolina beekeeper.

SourwoodHeatherly calls it "the Cadillac of North Carolina honey" — is mostly found in the state's mountainous west. It can cost up to $10 a pound, making it an attractive target for adulteration.

It was a similar impersonation of local honey that provoked Nancy Gentry, a beekeeper who owns Cross Creek Honey in Interlachen, Fla., to launch a bid to get a honey standard not just in her home state, but around the country.

"People were taking raw honey, adding high fructose corn syrup and marketing it as grade A USDA No. 1 honey, but there is no such thing," said Dick Gentry, Nancy's husband and a retired trial lawyer who helped steer the campaign in Florida.

But the real sting in the Florida provision, and in standards adopted in California, Wisconsin and North Carolina, is that it makes it easier to file lawsuits against purveyors of bogus honey.

Agencies have been reluctant to create standards for honey ever since a Michigan jury in 1995 found in favor of a honey processing firm that had been accused of cutting the product with an additive. The jurors said there weren't enough regulations governing honey to make the charge stick and that the government failed to identify the additive.

Under the new laws, it isn't necessary to know out what's being added to honey. Any additive, from cane sugar to corn syrup, deprives it of the label "pure honey."

That could prompt retailers or beekeepers to file more lawsuits.

"For us, it is through the civil courts, then, that we take back the product," Nancy Gentry told an industry group in Fresno, Calif., according to a transcript of her speech. "We crush unscrupulous packers and throw out honey pretenders."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has worked to block the sale of honey contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals, and it's reviewing a petition seeking a national honey standard, spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said.

In the meantime, North Carolina beekeepers promise to keep on the lookout to ensure every jar of honey holds what the label says.

"Some of the people who think they've been buying sourwood all these years have actually been buying corn syrup, and they have no idea what they're missing," Ambrose said.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleaning Up The Supers

Last weekend I posted about this years honey harvest. Today I will just comment on how we cleaned up the supers.

After extracting the honey the supers were still "wet". That is to say that the comb on the frames was still covered in honey- not enough to extract, but there was still enough to make everything sticky if it were left that way through the winter. Since bees love honey it made sense to let the bees clean it up.

A couple of days after extracting I took the supers out and put them back on the hives. This time, though, I left the inner cover between the brood nest and the supers. I guess the inner cover creates a barrier between the colony and the supers so the bees don't think of the supers as actually part of the hive and don't start storing honey up there again. I did leave the queen excluders in place- I didn't want to leave any chance that the queens would move up into the supers again. Anyway, the workers were able to move up and down through the hole in the middle of the inner cover.

After 4 days I took the supers back off. I found that the bees had cleaned up all the honey and repaired the comb that had been damaged during uncapping and extracting. I also found that the supers were full of bees. I didn't want to go through each frame and brush off all the bees again. So I laid the supers on the ground about 5 feet from the hives and let them sit overnight. The next day all the bees had moved back into the hives, and I took the supers back in the house. All in all it was a very easy process.

Now I still had a sticky extractor and some sticky buckets left in the house. I took them out and laid them on their sides next to the hives. It didn't take long for the bees to be all over them licking up the honey. After a day or two all the equipment was cleaned up and ready to be stored for the winter.

I can't wait for next year to do it all over again!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Honey Harvest 2010

Extracting honey is such an exciting time. Everything we do all year is in preparation for this one day. Here is how it all went:

The first step was to pull the supers off the hives. Last year I rigged up a fume board with some plywood and a piece of felt, sprayed on some "Bee-Quick", and tried to drive the bees out of the supers. I failed miserably. With the bees remaining in the supers I set them on the basketball court in the backyard and waited for evening. I figured that when the evening cooled off and the sun went down the bees would leave the supers and go home. That didn't work either. So I spent a couple of hours in the dark taking each frame individually over to the hives, brushing the bees off and then taking the frame inside the house. This year I tried a different approach.

On September 3rd I took out a large plastic tub which had been covered with a sheet out to the hives. I removed each frame from the super one at a time, brushed the bees off, put the frame in the tub, and replaced the sheet. When all the frames were removed from one super I brushed the remaining bees out and took the super over to the back door where I covered it with another sheet. I dragged the tub of frames over to the house, put the now beeless frames back in the super and replaced the sheet. I did this for 3 of Virginia's supers that evening. I repeated the process for 3 of Georgia's supers the next morning. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really wasn't too bad. If a had more hives I would probably figure out a different method. I did have four supers on each hive, but the most recent addition to each hive was far from ready. I decided to leave them where they were and let the bees fill them up with honey this fall- a little extra insurance for their winter stores.

After running errands etc. on the morning of September 4th we got everything ready to go at about 3:oo pm. Here is a photo of the set up. We later moved the whole thing to the other end of the kitchen where it was a little warmer. The honey wasn't flowing very well sitting right next to the air conditioner.

At 3:00 on the 4th we got busy uncapping, spinning, and filtering. I figured it would take several hours to get it all done. We were up pretty late that night. Extracting 60 frames in a 3 frame tangential extractor took longer than I had anticipated. Next year's extraction day might turn into a 2 day event. Or maybe I just need to get a bigger extractor.

I will say this- The heated uncapping knife made all the difference in the world. It was so much faster and easier than last year when we used an unheated knife which had to be warmed up in hot water before uncapping each frame.

The homemade uncapping tank worked but could have been better. The following improvements will be made next year: a larger tub will be used (60 frames make a large pile of caps. It needed a larger surface area.), the cross beam will be moved to one end to provide a larger area for the caps to fall off the knife, the wire mesh will be redesigned to be lifted straight up out of the tub, and a honey gate will be installed. Or I could just take Chris' suggestion and order an uncapping tank from a beekeeping supplier.

Here are a few photos of the process. In this first photo I am uncapping a frame of honey. Here is a pile of caps in the uncapping tank. I'd say about half a gollon of honey dripped out of the caps and into the tank. We let it drip overnight and into the next afternoon.

These next two photos show a frame in the extractor (you are looking at the unextracted side) and an empty frame upon coming out of the extractor.

This next series shows the unfiltered honey pouring out of the extracor, the unfiltered honey in the bucket, and the filter it went through to clean it up.
We misjudged the number of 5 gallon buckets we would need. Since filtering is such a slow process we had to extract the honey into one bucket and slowly filter it into another. By the end we were catching honey in various pots and pans. In the end we had almost 15 gallons of honey- not bad! We finished filtering the next day. Here is a photo of the final product.
We have been selling it in pint and 1/2 pint jars and advertising just by word of mouth. It is mostly gone now- I plan on taking it to a farmers' market this week. We'll see if I can sell the rest of it there.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Honey Harvest- Final Numbers

Final numbers for honey harvest 2010 (drum roll, please)...... 170 pounds and just under 15 gallons! Not bad. Add in the 2.5 gallons we extracted earlier in the summer and we got about 16 gallons for the year.

I just finished filtering the last of it this morning. I have to thanks Chris for letting me take over her kitchen for the last 2 1/2 days. Now it is time to clean up, process wax, and bottle the honey.

I will post again later with more details and some photos.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Homemade Uncapping Tank

This weekend is quickly approaching and we have been trying to get ready for the extraction process. Last year we didn't have an uncapping tank so we tried to tie one of our plastic queen excluders to the top of a big plastic bin. It worked.... kind of. Let's just say it was a pain to use. This year I decided to build my own uncapping tank. Here is how it went:

I started by stealing one of Chris' plastic containers- one of those she usually uses to store old blankets, clothes, etc. I cut a couple of notches just big enough to fit a 2X4 on either side of the container. Then I drilled holes into the sides on both ends a few inches from the top.

I then cut a 2X4 just a little longer than the container is wide and put a screw all the way through about half way up the board.

Next I cut a couple of dowels the same length as the 2X4. I cut some hardware cloth down to size, wrapped the ends of it around the dowels, and laced it together with wire.

I put it all together by setting the hardware cloth down in the container (without the dowels) and then sliding the dowels in through the holes on one side, through the end loops in the hardware cloth, and out the other side. Then I set the 2X4 in its notches with the screw pointing up.

I should be able to place the end of a frame full of honey on the screw, uncap one side, and rotate it around on the screw to uncap the other side. The caps should get caught on the hardware cloth while the honey drips through to the bottom.

I put the 2X4 in the center so I could uncap onto either side of the tank- in retrospect, I wonder if it would have been better to put it further to one end in order to leave more room for the caps to fall. I suppose I can still change it if I need to.

The only thing left is to cut a hole near the bottom and install a honey gate. If this contraption works well I will see about doing that next year.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We Have Set A Date!

It's official! We have committed to a date and will be extracting honey next Saturday, September 4, 2010. We will take pictures of the whole process and post them here when we are done.

I plan on taking a couple of jars to Rawlins, WY on September 11th for a silent auction at a Constitution Day dinner and fund raiser for the newly organized Constitution Party of Wyoming. It would be well worth your while to make it there that day- Scott Bradley, a constitutional authority, will be the guest speaker. Besides that, you can bid on my honey! If anyone would like more details I would be happy to pass them along.

In a non-bee related subject. I dug the beets this afternoon. Here is a photo of the beet harvest.
This is our first year with beets so we didn't plant very many. We will can them on Monday. If all goes well and we enjoy eating them this winter we might plant more of them next year.

This is always a busy time of year. Besides the beets, all the rest of the produce in our yard is getting ready to harvest. That also means canning and processing. Honey will be extracted next weekend and will need to be bottled. Tomatoes will all be ripening soon and that means tomato sauce. Apples will be ready to be picked sometime in September. Last year we canned apple pie filling; we are thinking about making apple sauce this year. Grapes will be picked about the first week in October. They will become juice or jelly. Onions, peppers, and some tomatoes will become salsa. We will dig the potatoes and carrots about the second week in October and will be used to can stew. It all keeps us busy- but it is so satisfying.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Her Majesty Has Returned

The queen is home! Over the last few weeks I have been dealing with queens that moved up into the honey supers to lay their eggs.

Georgia's queen moved up one super, laid some eggs and went back down. I put the queen excluder on her and we have all been happy ever since. Virginia's queen, on the other hand, moved up two supers to start laying eggs. I thought she had moved back down as well so I put the queen excluder on. Last week I discovered that she had laid more eggs in the honey super and that the queen excluder had actually trapped her up there instead of down in the deep hive bodies. As I reported last week, I brushed all the bees in all four honey supers back down in to the deep hive bodies and replaced the queen excluder.

I checked on Virginia's honey supers again today and found plenty of capped brood and some larva. I didn't find any eggs and all the larva was more than a few days old. A good sign! Here is a photo of one of the frames out of that super.
Not a bad brood pattern- just not where I want it to be. There are some larva around the outside edges of the brood. This super was brand new with empty, combless frames when I put it on the hive, so the bees have worked hard to draw comb on all those empty frames.

I did do a quick check down in the upper deep hive body to make sure the queen was down there. I only pulled a few frames and saw lots of larva just one to three days old. That was enough for me and I put the hive back together- I did not want to risk injuring the queen now. No more requeening this year!

As I was putting the supers back on I noticed how heavy they are getting. They are all full of honey (except for the super full of brood) and in the process of being capped. I did the shake test where you hold the frame horizontally and give it a shake. If the contents drip out the honey is not yet ripe; if it stays in you've got honey in that comb. I predict that if we pull the supers off during the first week of September, we should get a lot of good thick ripe honey. Some of the brood in the super might not have emerged by then. If that is the case we will just leave that super in place until they do emerge. We won't be getting any ripe honey out of that super anyway.

We are getting close- I can't wait!

Her Majesty Has Returned

The queen is home! Over the last few weeks I have been dealing with queens that moved up into the honey supers to lay their eggs.

Georgia's queen moved up one super, laid some eggs and went back down. I put the queen excluder on her and we have all been happy ever since. Virginia's queen, on the other hand, moved up two supers to start laying eggs. I thought she had moved back down as well so I put the queen excluder on. Last week I discovered that she had laid more eggs in the honey super and that the queen excluder had actually trapped her up there instead of down in the deep hive bodies. As I reported last week, I brushed all the bees in all four honey supers back down in to the deep hive bodies and replaced the queen excluder.

I checked on Virginia's honey supers again today and found plenty of capped brood and some larva. I didn't find any eggs and all the larva was more than a few days old. A good sign! Here is a photo of one of the frames out of that super.
Not a bad brood pattern- just not where I want it to be. There are some larva around the outside edges of the brood. This super was brand new with empty, combless frames when I put it on the hive, so the bees have worked hard to draw comb on all those empty frames.

I did do a quick check down in the upper deep hive body to make sure the queen was down there. I only pulled a few frames and saw lots of larva just one to three days old. That was enough for me and I put the hive back together- I did not want to risk injuring the queen now. No more requeening this year!

As I was putting the supers back on I noticed how heavy they are getting. They are all full of honey (except for the super full of brood) and in the process of being capped. I did the shake test where you hold the frame horizontally and give it a shake. If the contents drip out the honey is not yet ripe; if it stays in you've got honey in that comb. I predict that if we pull the supers off during the first week of September, we should get a lot of good thick ripe honey. Some of the brood in the super might not have emerged by then. If that is the case we will just leave that super in place until they do emerge. We won't be getting any ripe honey out of that super anyway.

We are getting close- I can't wait!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trapped Queen

A couple of weeks ago, while inspecting the hives, I discovered that both queens had moved up and laid eggs in the honey supers. Georgia had moved honey out of the super directly above the deep hive bodies and the queen laid eggs there. In Virginia, however, the queen crossed over a whole super of capped honey to lay eggs in the next box up. I looked through the supers and tried to find the queens. When I didn’t find either of them I figured she must be down in the deep hive bodies. So I put the queen excluders back on in order to keep the queens down low. This would allow the brood in the honey supers to mature and emerge before we extract honey. I do not want to deal with brood in the supers while we are trying to extract.

I checked out both hives last Tuesday to see how the bees were doing with capping the honey in the supers. I found that the bees have collected just a little more nectar- I think that the nectar flow is slowing down some. I was also expecting to find some brood where the queens had been laying. That is exactly what I found in Georgia- a few frames of capped brood directly above the queen excluder I put on last a couple of weeks ago. Georgia is capping more of the honey in the supers. I did not inspect any lower into the brood nest, but she looks like she is doing well. I think this new queen is a good one- the population has grown significantly since Georgia was queenless.

Georgia also had capped brood where the queen had been laying up in the honey super- but I also found larva and eggs! Apparently, when I put the queen excluder back on the queen had not moved down into the deep hive bodies. My queen was trapped up in the honey supers! Luckily she hadn’t laid eggs in more than that one medium super- at least I didn’t see any eggs or brood in any of the others. I looked over each frame in that super and didn’t see the queen anywhere- I am horrible at finding the queen. I have not seen a queen since just a few weeks after we hived our packages in April of 2009. Anyway, in order to make sure I got the queen back down in the deeps, I pulled all 4 medium supers off the hive and went through each super frame by frame. I looked over each frame, brushed all the bees off in to the deep hive body, and set the beeless frame off to the side. After all the bees were cleaned out of the supers I replaced the queen excluder and put the supers back on the hive. I am hoping the queen made it back down where I want her. I will check again next week and will hopefully find eggs in the deep hive bodies only.

As I mentioned the nectar flow is slowing down. The alfalfa fields are still blooming but not nearly like they were earlier in the summer. I am not certain when we will extract our honey. Last year we pulled the supers off in the middle of September. That seemed to work well- I fed them sugar syrup in the fall and they had time to build up enough stores to get them through the winter. I did do some supplemental feeding last January because I thought they were getting low but realized later that it was not needed.

I guess we will see how things go. Hopefully we won’t see any new brood in the honey supers and we can pull the supers after all of that brood has emerged. I’ll keep you updated.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Eggs In The Honey Supers

Eggs in the honey supers? Eggs do not belong in the honey supers, but that is where I found them today. Actually, laying eggs up in the honey supers is not wrong, but I would rather that the queen stay down in the deep hive bodies and reserve the honey supers for "my" honey.

As I went through the honey supers I found that Georgia still has a lot of uncapped honey. I hope the bees get busy and cap it all off during this next month. Georgia does have the bottom super (directly above the broodnest) full of capped honey. At least it was until a couple of weeks ago. The bees have been emptying the honey out of the bottom half of the center frames in the bottom super. It looked like they were making the brood nest bigger for the queen to lay. I had removed the queen excluders from the hives earlier this year because queens are not supposed to cross capped honey. Since I had capped honey in the bottom supers I thought that removing the excluders would encourage the workers to move up and make more honey. Anyway, since the queen excluder had been removed and the bees emptied the honey out of some of the frames, the queen moved up and laid a bunch of eggs in the honey super. I made sure the queen was not in the super and put the queen excluder back on. This will keep the queen from laying any more eggs up there. Now I will be able to extract honey after the brood from the existing eggs emerges without getting baby bees in the honey.

I did not inspect any more of Georgia's broodnest. During the last inspection I discovered that Georgia is now queen right and I have decided not to dig down into the broodnest anymore this summer. I don't want to take a chance on causing any more queen problems.

Last week I took Virginia's newest honey super full of empty frames and put it down in the 2nd honey super position. So there is one honey super full of capped honey directly above the brood nest and the new empty super directly above that. My thinking was that, even if there was not time this summer for the bees to store honey in this super, if the bees could at least draw some comb then this super would have a head start next summer. I figured that moving the super down closer to the majority of the bees would facilitate faster comb production. I had removed the queen excluder from Virginia as well as I expected the super of capped honey to serve as Virginia's excluder. When I finally made it down to the empty super, I found that the bees had been busy drawing comb. It was not complete but they had made a good start.

Here is a photo of the new comb in the empty super.
The preceding photo shows some nice white new comb but does not show what I was actually looking at. This next photo is a close up of the same frame. Look at what is inside the cells. Eggs! I thought these frames would be safe from the queen with all the capped honey directly below it. The next photo shows what the queen had to cross to lay those eggs.

That capped honey is beautiful, isn't it? Apparently capped honey will not contain a queen if she wants to get to the other side. After Virginia's inspection I put the queen excluder back on her as well. I really don't want to have to deal with brood in the honey supers come extraction time.

Last time I inspected Virginia her new queen hadn't been around for long. She had been laying eggs, but they were pretty scattered. She hadn't quite gotten her legs under her yet. I went through her brood nest today, and it looks like she has settled down nicely. I saw several frames in both the upper and lower deep hive bodies with nice tight brood patterns. It does feel good to have both hives queen right again.

There has been something interesting going on with Virginia's hive this summer. I don't' know if it is common or rare, but I was not expecting it. You see both of our hives have screened bottom boards and sit side by side on a solid platform. It appears as though some of Virginia's bees have gone underneath the hive and attached comb to the underside of the screened bottom board. Here is a photo looking down in to the hive at the comb underneath.

Sorry for the fuzzy picture- the camera had a hard time deciding what to focus on. This comb is actually running side to side- at a 90 degree angle to the frames above it. There is not a lot of space under there, and I assume they are storing honey in the comb. In this next photo you can see some of the bees coming and going from the side.

There are a couple of bees there fanning the entrance.

The bees were extremely calm today. I think it was probably because they are both finally queen right. I have wondered though if smoker fuel affects the bees' mood during inspections. Last summer I used cedar chips as my fuel and this summer I bought a bag of shredded recycled cardboard. With the cardboard fuel the bees have been cranky all summer. Besides that the cardboard smoke is stinky and leaves a lot of creosote gunking up the top of the smoker. I switched back to cedar chips today- cedar smoke just smells so good.

Monday, August 2, 2010

We Have Orientation Flights..... Again!

Earlier in the summer I used to see huge swarms of bees in front of the hives doing orientation flights on a nearly daily basis. Since the hives have been having queen problems I haven't seen any orientation flights in quite some time. Yesterday however, I saw a small group of bees in front of the hives flying up and down and side to side at right angles. I saw the same thing again today. Even though there weren't a lot of bees orienting themselves to the hives' locations it was nice to see them at it again. I'm sure that the bees performing the flights were all from Georgia's queen. Virginia's queen is not old enough to have produced bees performing orientation flights yet. The bees in front of Virginia were from the frames of brood I moved over from Georgia to try to prevent any laying workers from developing.

I did go through the honey supers this afternoon. The bees are finally starting to draw a little comb in the newest supers with empty frames. Virginia has just a little less than 3 medium supers full of honey right now. Georgia has about the same, but remember that we extracted one of Georgia's supers earlier in the summer and put the empty super back on. The bees are continuing to move the honey out of the bottom super directly above the brood nest. Next time I do an inspection I will put the queen excluder back on so I can still extract those frames without worrying about brood getting in the way.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Becoming Queen Right

I think we are on our way to becoming queen right.

Both hives have had queen problems this summer and both have superceded. Georgia was the first to supercede and develop her own new queen. It took a couple of weeks to get her legs under her and start laying well, but after today's inspection I have concluded that she is doing a great job. Down in her brood nest I found lots of capped brood, larva, and eggs all in a nice tight pattern. Will the new bees from this queen get up and foraging before the nectar flow slows down? I hope so- I would like to see them put away a little more honey for me before the end of the summer.

As far as Georgia's honey supers go, she has not made progress in the newest super full of empty frames I put on a while back. She is putting honey back into the super we extracted a few weeks ago. It is almost completely filled back up with nectar/honey. None of it is capped yet though.

The bottom super (just above the deep hive bodies) was the first to be filled with honey. Once the bees had filled it, I pulled the queen excluder off and let that super of honey act as an excluder to keep the queen from going any higher. Today I discovered that the bees have been removing honey from the bottom half of the center frames in that super. It looks like they are trying to give the queen more space to lay. This happened earlier in the summer, too. At that time I reversed brood boxes to move the queen back down to the bottom box, and the bees filled the super back in with honey. I opted not to do that today. With the problems the queens have been having this summer I decided to leave well enough alone. Will I get brood in the honey super? Maybe. I will deal with that if and when it happens.

Virginia has had more of a rough time with her queens this summer. I think one supercedure attempt failed, and she had to give it a second try. By the time the second attempt was completed the hive was completely broodless. I ordered a new queen from Old Sol Enterprises thinking that the second attempt had failed, but last week I discovered a few eggs and larva. The new queen was supposed to have shipped on Monday and arrived sometime this week. Either the guy at Old Sol meant the queen would be shipped next Monday or I miss understood because no queen has arrived. No matter, in today's inspection I found eggs, larva, and capped brood. The pattern is not great but it took Georgia's queen a little while to settle down and get going properly. It looks like Virginia is on her way to becoming queen right as well. If the new queen does arrive next week I will try to find Virginia's queen and replace her with Old Sol's. I think that I would rather have a queen from proven stock rather than a queen from an earlier queen that had to be superceded in her second year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Frustrations Of A Second Year Beekeeper

I guess nobody ever said that the second year of beekeeping would be easy. I just assumed that, with a year of experience, it would all be pretty straightforward. Ha! I was wrong!

Last year was really not too complicated. We hived the packages toward the end of April and fed them sugar syrup until they had enough nectar coming in to quit taking it. The queens laid eggs and raised brood like crazy. As the bees filled up one super with comb and honey we would add another. At the end of the summer we extracted honey and fed them more sugar syrup to make sure they could make it through the winter. It all worked out pretty much the way Beekeeping For Dummies said it would.

This year has been a different story. First, both hives built up rapidly this spring, and I had to try to prevent swarming- we had swarm cells up into June. Then both hives went queenless for a while.

Back in June Georgia did successfully raise a new queen who started laying a couple of weeks ago. Virginia, on the other hand, had a more difficult time raising her own queen and went queenless and broodless longer than Georgia. Back on July 5th I reported that Virginia had 6 supercedure cells, and it looked like she was finally on her way to requeening herself.

A couple of weeks ago I inspected Virginia to see if the new queen had started laying but didn't find a single egg or larva. I figured that the supercedure attempt had failed and, without any eggs or larvae, the bees would not be able to make their own. A few days later I moved a frame of brood from Georgia to Virginia to stop any laying workers from developing and I ordered a new queen from Old Sol Enterprises in Oregon. The queen was supposed to have shipped today and arrive in a day to two. I have since checked on Virginia again and, to my surprise, found eggs and larvae! I didn't see a lot, just a few. I guess my bee math must have been off. What was curious, though, is that it looked like there were several cells with royal jelly in with the larvae. Does this mean that the bees already know that this new queen is not up to snuff and they are already trying to replace her? When the new queen arrives from Old Sol I will try to find the current queen and replace her.

In the mean time, with all of these queen issues, the populations of both hives have dropped somewhat and extra honey production has almost stopped. At this point, we will harvest honey this fall- we have 3 medium supers on each hive that are mostly full of honey. Think of what it could have been if everything had gone according to plan! Now I just hope to have both hives queen right and with a decent population before fall.

We actually have extracted some honey already- also on July 5th I reported that our bees were beginning to run out of room. We had a couple more supers and frames on order, but they were slow to arrive. So we pulled one super from Virginia and extracted a couple gallons of honey and put it back on the hive. The honey is delicious- it has a smoth and almost buttery flavor. When the new supers did arrive we put those on as well. With the queen issues and declining populations, the bees have not done much in the new supers; they have only drawn a minimal amount of comb. I figure if they can at least do that much then it will just accelerate the comb building process next summer.

I think we have a few more weeks of decent nectar flow- we'll cross our fingers and hope everything goes well.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Queens and Nectar Flows

Things are moving right along this summer. Last time I updated the blog the bees had been collecting nectar in the honey supers- they had gone through the dandelion and fruit tree blooms and were finally collecting nectar from some unknown source. We had been anxiously awaiting the start of the alfalfa bloom (our main nectar flow) which had been delayed this year due to a cool wet spring.

Both hives have been having queen issues this year. As of the last update Georgia had a supercedure cell in the works and Virginia's queen appeared to have started laying again.

I think I will tackle things a subject at a time rather than chronologically.

This first picture is what the hives look like as of today. I know- it looks a little odd, but let me explain...
When we first ordered the bee hives about a year and a half ago we decided to go with BeeMax polystyrene hives. They looked easy to put together and we thought they would help the bees overwinter. Since that time we have decided that we want to switch over to regular wooden hives so have ordered wooden honey supers to go on top. We will be ordering wooden hive bodies and switch them out next spring. It makes them look a little strange on the outside, but the bees don't care what they look like. They build comb and store honey just the same either way.

I drilled a hole in the top super on each hive in an effort to encourage more honey production. I figure that if the bees can access the super directly without traversing the brood chamber and lower honey supers then they ought to be able to make more nectar collecting trips. I attached a small landing strip in front of each to make it easier for nectar laden bees to land. If you have ever seen bees full of nectar returning to the hive you know that they are so heavy they have a hard time hitting their target.

The photo above shows a lone worker on one of the landing strips fanning the entrance.
Nectar Flows
Our cool wet spring delayed the alfalfa flow this year by about 2 weeks. We had seen a few lone alfalfa plants beginning to blossom but the big alfalfa fields still looked pretty blossomless. Finally the fields started filling up with purple and blue flowers right about June 20th. We are glad to see it get started. The alfalfa fields being raised for seed will blossom continuously until sometime in September (I think). There are 4 or 5 of these fields within a mile and a half of our house. That should keep the girls busy.
Also on June 20th the Russian olives began their bloom. You'd think that, having grown up with Russian olives all around, I would have realized that they get covered with little yellow blossoms every year. I guess I never looked closely enough to see them. We found a tree near our house and snapped this picture of a bee foraging on a Russian olive blossom.
We did not see a lot of bees working this tree. I don't know if Russian olives are not an important source of nectar or if the bees just prefer the alfalfa that was starting at the same time. In any case, the Russian olives continued to blossom for a week or two and then the blossoms died off.

Honey Supers
The bees have been storing nectar in the supers for a while now, but when the alfalfa flow started they really picked up the pace. Georgia has had 3 medium supers for quite a while, but the bees hadn't been doing anything up in her top box until this past week. They are actively building comb and storing nectar there now. Last week I put a third super on Virginia as well and today I saw that they were starting to draw comb up there. They are not quite as far along as Georgia is, though.
Here is a photo of a frame of honey from Georgia's second super. They have a little more than half of this central frame capped. They have not started capping the outside frames yet, but it is just a matter of time.
This next photo is a top view of one of the frames from Georgia's first super. I spaced the frames out a little and only placed 9 frames here. You can see that the comb has been drawn out a little further and the caps extend out just beyond the width of the frame. This should make it easier to uncap with a hot knife when extraction time comes around.

Each hive now has 3 supers and the bees are working hard to fill them up with honey. We bought 1 extra super with frames to go on each hive this spring thinking that that should be enough. They have worked harder than we anticipated and we put our last super and frames on Virginia last week. We have ordered more supers and frames- let's hope they get here quickly.
Both hives have been having queen issues. We inspected both hives on June 26th and found the following. Georgia had a couple frames of capped brood, no eggs, very few larva, and 1 capped supercedure queen cell. Virginia had a little capped brood, very few eggs, very few larva, and no queen cells.
We thought about re-queening both hives with commercially bred queens, but after calling several queen breeders we found that no one would be able to get us a queen for 2-3 weeks. We then decided to let Georgia supercede with their own queen and just wait and see what we might find in Virginia later.
During today's inspection I found some eggs but not a lot. In a few of the cells I actually saw a couple of eggs. My first thought was that I have a laying worker in the hive, but there is still some capped brood in the hive. I actually watched a couple of workers chew their way out of their cells. Since laying workers develop from the lack of brood pheromones (according to Michael Bush's website) I concluded that the eggs must be from the new queen who is just not up on her feet yet. I will continue to monitor this situation and inspect again next week to see how they are doing.
In Virginia's brood nest today I found no eggs, nor larva, some capped brood, and some capped queen cells that can be seen in this photo.
Six capped queen cells- I am assuming that they are all supercedure cells to replace the queen who seems to have gone missing. I find it curious that both queens had problems at the same time like this. We will leave Virginia alone for a couple of weeks and then check how the new queen is getting along.
One thing that does have me a little concerned is that the bees seem to be filling in the brood nest with honey just about as quickly as the new bees emerge from their cells. That doesn't leave the new queens much space to lay eggs. In order to give them a little more space I removed a couple outside frames full of honey and put a couple of empty frames in the center positions. I brought one of the frames in to the kitchen table and we had a tasty treat with our supper. This honey was a little darker and stronger than the honey we extracted last fall. But that was mainly alfalfa honey from the supers. This was honey from down in the hive bodies and made earlier in the season. I wonder if maybe this is dandelion/fruit tree/wild flower honey. It is amazing how different nectar sources can have such an effect on the flavor and appearance of the final product.

Monday, June 14, 2010


It looks like it is time to re-queen one of the hives. But I'm not doing it- the bees are taking care of that themselves.

Back on June 1st I reported that the queens in both hives had really slowed down in the brood production department. I was hopeful that they had slowed down because the nectar flow had slowed and that there was nothing seriously wrong with them.

As I started Georgia's inspection I could tell right away that things were different. This had been such a great hive which supplied us with the majority of the 75 pounds of honey we harvested last year. She survived the winter in nice style and built up explosively this spring. But as I started going through the supers today I could tell that the population had dropped off a little and there was no more honey in the supers now than 2 weeks ago. As I started making my way through the broodnest I did find capped brood, some larva, and a few eggs which had been laid in a spotty pattern. Finally I came across this frame seen below.

Here we have two empty queen cups and a capped supercedure queen cell near the top of this partially drawn frame. It looks like the bees are mounting a coup and preparing to replace the current queen. I will let this queen develop, mate, and take over the hive rather than ordering a new mated queen to install. Installing a new queen would require finding and getting rid of the existing queen. Since I haven't been able to find either queen since shortly after we installed the packages last spring, I'm not sure how successful I would be at finding her now. This whole scenario really is a little disappointing- I was hoping that this hive would keep booming and really pound out the honey this summer. Let's hope that we can recover from this little set back in time.

Virginia, on the other hand, seems to be doing a lot better. She has 2 medium honey supers- the first had fully drawn frames and the second had some partially drawn and some empty frames. The first super is almost filled with uncapped honey- the outer frames are about half filled and the central frames are completely filled and are starting to be capped. Up in the second super the bees are starting to draw more comb to fill with honey.

Down in the brood nest I discovered that the queen has picked up laying again- I found lots of eggs, larva, and capped brood all in a nice tight pattern. I also found 6 or 7 swarm cells/queen cups along the bottom of the frames of the upper deep hive body. The bees have plenty of room right now and I suspect that this past week of cool rainy weather made them go a little stir crazy and start thinking about swarming. I cut out the swarm cells (two of them had royal jelly but were not even close to being capped) and queen cups. With warm weather in the forecast maybe the bees will start working outside and stop thinking about swarming.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


We checked out the hives yesterday. It was a nice warm day and I just couldn't help myself. We didn't do a full hive inspection- just checked out the honey supers to see how much, if any, progress the bees were making.

The last time we checked the hives was just four days previous on June 1st. During that inspection I took a photo of one of the center frames of Virginia's first super above the brood nest. Yesterday Chris took a photo of that same frame- the two of them can be seen below. The top photo is from June 1st and the bottom photo is from yesterday.

On June 1st the bees had filled in about 2/3 of the frame with uncapped honey. Yesterday they had filled in almost the entire frame with the exception of a couple of spots at the bottom of the frame. I don't remember how quickly they filled in the honey supers last year, but this seems to be pretty good progress to me.

I don't know where they are finding the nectar- they don't seem to be touching the few dandelions that are still blooming and I haven't been able to locate any other major nectar sources in the area right now. It's a mystery.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Inspected The Hives Today

We had been out of town for the last 5 days and just made it home at about midnight on the first. My wife thinks that this is kind of strange, but I really missed the bees while we were gone and I thought about them a lot- always hoping that they were ok. I wonder how difficult it would be to set up a hive cam on this blog so I can keep tabs on them when I am not around.

The first thing I did when it warmed up a little this morning was get geared up to do an inspection. I found that the bees were incredibly docile- I did smoke them but I wonder if I could have done the whole inspection without smoke. I know that the veil wasn't necessary.

You may recall that I placed one medium honey super on each hive earlier in the spring when the dandelion and fruit tree nectar flows were beginning. A week later, Georgia's population was booming so I gave her another super just to give her a little more room. I checked the supers on both hives before we left last week and neither really needed another super at that time. I added a super to each anyway just in case some big nectar flow started while we were gone and the girls went wild with honey production. I gave Virginia her second super with partially drawn frames and Georgia a third super with empty frames.

I started with Georgia. Her top super of empty frames has not been touched. There were a few bees up there, but there was very minimal comb being drawn. Before removing each box I always crack it open a bit and puff a little smoke in to calm the bees before I open it up completely. This photo shows the bees reaction to the smoke. You can see their heads down in the cells gorging on honey.

This super has uncapped honey in about 5 of the 10 frames. None of the frames are completely full though. There is a little more honey than last time I checked but not much. I think we are between nectar flows right now- I wish the alfalfa would hurry up and start. I am thinking the cool spring this year pushed everything back a week or two.

This next photo shows the top of the bottom honey super- the one located directly above the brood nest.

Burr comb is what happens when you space out nine frames in a ten frame super and then place a super with ten frames above it. The frames don't all match up so the bees add extra comb where they think it belongs. It makes a bit of a mess to scrape out, but cleaning it up is quick and easy and it gives us extra wax to make beeswax hand balm/emolient or whatever you want to call it. I suppose as all ten of the frames in the super above are drawn out I could space those frames out to nine in the super as well. I discussed why I am going with nine frames in a super in the post dated May 14th.

As I made my way down into the bottom super I found lots of uncapped honey. However, in the center frames, the bees have been storing some pollen in the bottom half of the frames. It looks like they are expecting to use the bottom of the honey super frames as the top part of the brood nest. But with the queen excluder on the queen cannot make it up there.

Down in the brood boxes I found capped brood, some larva, and very few eggs. I am not 100% certain why there are so few eggs. I thought the queen must be having problems but then I discovered the same thing in Virginia and I wondered if it could be just a coincidence that both queens were having problems or if there was something else going on. After a little research I came across a power point presentation in which Michael Bush explains that during a nectar dearth queens will sometimes slow way down on the egg laying. I hope that this is what is happening now.

Anyway, it seemed that most of the broodnest was located in the upper deep hive body. I wanted to move the brood nest a little lower so the bees would fill in the super with honey instead of pollen so I reversed the brood boxes in an attempt to move the queen back down. I did not do this earlier in the spring because there were about equal numbers of eggs and brood in the upper and lower boxes. It looked like the queen was moving up and down in order to utilize all her space.

Virginia now has 2 medium honey supers. The first has 9 fully drawn frames spaced out in a 10 frame box and the second has 10 partially drawn frames. As I began the inspection I found that the bees had done some work on the comb of the top super but had not stored any nectar up there. The bottom super has uncapped honey in about 5 or 6 of the frames. Here is a photo of one of the center frames.

I has a beautiful color, doesn't it? You can see the curved line separating the filled and empty cells. That shape makes me wonder if Virginia is also trying to use the bottoms of these frames as part of the brood nest. I thought I would reverse Virginia's brood boxes as well but found that, while I did not find many eggs here either, most of the brood nest was already in the bottom box. Hopefully the bees will fill in the rest of these frames with honey when the next nectar flow gets going.

I guess I will leave them alone for a while and check them again when the alfalfa flow starts. Hopefully then the queens will pick up the egg laying and the bees will really start packing away the honey.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I have to make a correction to something I said in my previous post. I heard a piping queen during my last inspection and reported that the piping was from a new queen as she prepares to mate. I was informed (very politely) by someone reading the blog that I was mistaken and that the piping is from the old queen calling to the new queen so she can kill her. So sorry about that. And thanks for letting me know about my error- there is still so much to learn.

So I guess I must have a new queen that hatched from a supercedure cells that I had not seen. So why were the bees superceding? The old queen seemed to bo doing great. I just have to remember that bees are smarter than we are- they usually know what they are doing.

Anyway, I did more research on queen piping and came across this really interesting paper called "Listen to the Bees" by Rex Boys. He chronicled the research of Eddie Woods who studied the various sounds that bees make. He was a sound broadcast engineer and hobbyist beekeeper. The paper discusses some technical material that I had to read over a time or two, but it is quite interesting. You can find it here if you are interested.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Piping Queen

I did a full inspection of both hives a few days ago. I think they are both looking good but I am not entirely sure what is going on inside Georgia. The results were as follows:

Georgia is still crammed full of bees. As I reported in an earlier post Georgia has been topped with 2 medium honey supers. I had originally put on only one super but a couple weeks ago or so I found that the hive was packed with bees from the bottom board to the outer cover. There was nectar being stored in the first super but none of it had been capped yet. I decided to add a second super just to give the bees a little more room. I provided a top entrance with the second super to make it easier for the bees to get in and out of the supers and hopefully make more honey. As of today, however, none of the bees seem to discovered the top entrance and I have not seen a single bee use it.

During this inspection I found uncapped nectar in both supers. Some of the frames in the first are filling up, but there is not much in the second. I think that we are kind of in between nectar flows right now; the fruit trees and dandelions are winding down and the alfalfa is not ready yet. Hopefully the alfalfa will get going before to long and the bees can really get busy. Alfalfa is the main nectar flow in the Big Horn Basin; it blooms continuously from maybe the end of May until maybe the beginning of October. Here is an interesting map with major nectar flow information.

Back to the inspection. I went through every frame of the brood nest to make sure there weren't any swarm cells and I didn't find any. That is a good thing. There were lots of eggs, larva, and capped brood. The photo below is a frame from the upper deep hive body.

I thought that the amount of capped brood here was pretty impressive. This queen is certainly prolific. The fact that this queen has been so great is the reason I am now a little confused as to what exactly is going on in there. You see, during the inspection a week or so ago I found capped brood and eggs, but no larva. I thought that was a little odd. This spring I have seen several queen cups; some up high in the frames (supercedure position) and some along the bottom of the frames (swarm position) but all had been empty. Until that last inspection, that is. At that time, as I lifted one of the frames out, I found a capped queen cell on the bottom of a frame (swarm position) but only one of them. When they are preparing to swarm they usually build several swarm cells. This queen cell must have been connected to the frame next to it as well because as I pulled it out it ripped the cell open and exposed the entire pupa inside. I cleaned it up with the hive tool replaced the frame.

Now fast forward to a few days ago- As I was down in the bottom deep I heard this warbling sound coming from inside the hive. It was loud enough to be heard over all the buzzing of the bees. I wasn't sure but I thought it might be the sound of a piping queen. I did an internet search and came across some recordings. Sure enough, that is exactly what I heard. Now, as I understand it, piping comes from a virgin queen as she prepares to mate. So, what do I have? A hive with the existing queen and a virgin queen that is preparing to swarm? Or a queen from a supercedure cell mounting a coup? And where did this piping queen come from? Scotland? OK- that was a bad joke, but I really have always wanted to go to Scotland and learn to play the bagpipes. Back to the subject at hand- I can't imagine that the bees would want to supercede this queen and I haven't seen any capped queen cells except for the one that broke open. What is going on here!?

As I opened Virginia I looked through her super and found lots of uncapped nectar so I did not add a second super at this time. I imagine I will have to add one once the alfalfa gets going.

Going through the brood nest I came across this little girl chewing here way out of her cell. See her photo below.

I am thoroughly impressed by Virginia's queen this spring. This hive struggled last summer and there wasn't a huge population going in to the winter. I was thinking of re-queening her this spring but never got around to it. I wonder if the bees re-queened themselves last fall because she has built up explosively this spring. While in the brood nest it seemed that bees were coming out of nowhere. I had to smoke to clear the bees out enough pull out a frame and after looking at if for about 15 seconds I would have to smoke again to move the bees out of the way to put the frame back in. I seriously could not see the frames in the box for all the bees covering them. I did find that there was lots of pollen and honey in the brood chamber and it looked like the queen might be running out of room so I expanded the broodnest by pulling a frame with honey and pollen from the edge and placing an empty frame in the middle. I hope we are almost through the spring swarm season so the bees can just get down to business and make us some honey!

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