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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