I decided to check the colony one week after the first Apiguard treatment rather than waiting the full two weeks and discovered that the first patty was nearly finished. I am in a time crunch with rain arriving finally and plants soon to start blooming, so I am attempting the two patty treatment in a constricted timeframe. The colony appears strong despite the alarming number of mites I find on the sticky bottom board when I check it each morning. I’ve estimated 30 – 50 mites per day, with the numbers definitely falling over time; assuming a full hive body holds 20,000 – 30,000 bees that results in a 2 – 3.5% infestation rate, which is getting too high. According to Honey Bee Health a beekeeper should strive to keep the colony infestation below 3%.

My colony has filled all the frames now and there is no room for them to grow. They are apt to swarm if I don’t add more space for them soon. Some of the sites I’ve read recommend adding more space when the colony has filled six to eight frames in a ten frame box. Managed colonies expand by the beekeeper adding additional boxes with frames for the bees to build new comb. There is a balance to maintain because if there is too much empty space during the winter, it’s harder for the bees to maintain and protect their environment and it’s easier for intruders like wax moths or hive beetles to get a foothold into the colony. I am hoping that with the swath of lemonade berry about to bloom behind my property, there will be plenty of honey to keep the bees through next winter as well as a bit for my harvest. That means I need to add a super at a time when I am not also treating for varroa mites since the thymol treatment can lead to funky tasting honey. If it weren’t for my honey greed, I could have added another box at any time and just left whatever was produced for the bees.

Lush chaparral hillside

The timing of my inspection was not ideal as it was still a little too cold and most of the bees were in the hive rather than out foraging. That meant a lot of angry bees when I started peeking in their house! Here are links to the videos on YouTube if you’re interested in watching: inspection and summary. One note if you watch the second video, don’t do as I say and run and hide if bees are chasing you; if you safely can, calmly walk away. I tried to be quick about the inspection due to the weather, but became a bit disturbed when I could not locate the queen.

What I did find was several capped drone cells (I’ve highlighted them in the photo to the right) and one large bee sans blue dot. Last week I had found a couple drones, so I thought I knew how to distinguish them from the queen, but I’m clearly not confident in this.

Though this larger bee lacked the dot, I thought this was a queen due to a more elongated abdomen. It also seemed to have rather large eyes, a drone feature, so I clearly need more practice. Unfortunately, the bees were so upset that Marc, my super-handy husband and chief videographer (pictured to the left; yep, he needs a beesuit), was not able to get in close to get a photo for my later reference so it’s all a bit of a mystery for the moment. I did not find queen cells, neither supersedure, nor swarm cells, so I assume she’s there.

I’m going back in today to pull the second Apiguard treatment and add the honey super. My beekeeper friend is coming to help so we can be certain if the colony is queen-right. Wish us luck! It’s still a little cold.