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.

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