Archives for posts with tag: hive inspection

Wow! Time really flies. It’s already been four months since I started this adventure in beekeeping. I am happy to report that Queen AliĆ©nor is safely wandering the combs and, hopefully, depositing eggs. I still can’t see the eggs and instead look for capped and uncapped brood as evidence that she’s been laying recently. She was on the third frame in on the side of the hive that is best protected from the wind.

The queen and a few attendants among some capped honey

There are only two frames with no construction, and multiple frames only partly built, as is the one on which the queen was roaming this morning. Two frames have had the wax coating the foundation stripped on one side and will likely never be built out, and I’ll need to replace those next spring once there is plenty of forage for them. I’ve placed those on the outer edges of the hive since there isn’t much on them on the other side either; they have some honey on them, but they aren’t brood frames that need to stay closer to the center. There is one very heavy frame that is full of uncapped honey, and another frame filled with primarily with capped brood. They had eaten through the pollen patty I gave them nearly three weeks ago, and there was only the tiniest smidgen of it left, so I know I need to add patties at least every 2 – 2 1/2 weeks. I refill the sugar syrup usually weekly, though it’s less invasive to check the status of that since I can do it without opening the entire hive. I wonder if I could put the pollen patty above with the syrup? I’ll have to look into that.

All in all, I’m feeling like I have navigated this fairly well so far. I hope that we make it through the winter without too many hiccups. The weather here has definitely shifted to cooler nights and brisk mornings, but it warms up nicely by mid-morning. With the cooling temperatures, I will likely reduce the frequency with which I conduct a detailed hive inspection. Although I still need to do that mite check!

Hive activity this sunny morning

I still intend to post weekly, and have run through most of what I had in mind, although I still have a couple on my list. So I’m curious…are there any topics about bees or pollinators about which you are interested in reading and learning here? Please share in a comment and I’ll add that to my list. Knowing what you’re interested in gives me ideas too. Thanks for following along!

I think I have mentioned a couple times the idea of “checking the bottom board.” There are two types of bottoms for a hive: a solid wood bottom or a screened bottom; there may be more, but these are the two of which I know. The names tell you quite a bit about their appearance. I am currently using a screened bottom, which consists of a wire mesh screen above a thick plastic base. The plastic slides in and out, allowing for complete removal to increase ventilation in very hot environments such as inland San Diego county, or for periodic review of the hive. A quick glance at the goodies accumulated on the plastic is a great way to “see” what is happening inside the hive without annoying the bees. It’s how I have discovered ants were inside even when they could not be seen entering the hive or how I’ve verified that baby bees were emerging from their capped cells. It can also be used to look for mites that the bees have removed. I check it at least once a week, sometimes more frequently if I’m wanting to do something “beekeeper-ish” but don’t want to bother the bees again.

A view of most of the bottom board. Pollen patty bits are in the two rows at the top left, which is approximately where the pollen patty sits on top of the hive frames.

Usually, the board holds a lot of pollen patty remnants and bits of paper from the patty, a few cell cappings, and some escaped pollen. Those were all present this week, including pollen in a new shade of pinkish-orange that I had not seen before. They may have found a new pollen source as we head into the Fall and different species begin to bloom.

Pollen remnants (the larger oblong bits) in a variety of hues from pale yellows to an unusual (to me) pinkish-orange in the bottom left corner.

There were also a couple new things that I was not happy to see: two adult wax moths and a wax moth larva. The fact that these were at the bottom may indicate that the bees are able to successfully defend against them, but their presence is worrisome and I’ll need to check more thoroughly for signs when I am next in the hive. I didn’t see any of the obvious signs of their presence during yesterday’s inspection, so I’m hopeful.

An adult wax moth is the elongated, gray shape in the middle of the board.

The wax moths burrow through and eat the wax (shocking given their name, I know!) and the larvae eat the bee larvae so they are certainly not something I need in there. I have a couple frames that have some old comb on them and this may be how they were introduced. It’s not really a problem I expected yet since there is so little comb in the hive. I discovered another problem during my inspection yesterday that needs to be rectified soon (burr comb) and my solution includes removing those old frames so I hope I will have caught the problem before it gets too large.

Wax moth larva at the middle top of the board. Yuck!

I did not see any mites on the board, so that’s good news! But I still need to start thinking about a more rigorous method to check the hive for them. I’m leaning towards a sugar roll, which doesn’t kill the bees like the alcohol method does, and just gives them a dowsing in powdered sugar. More about that and the burr comb in the future. Thank you for following along and learning more about honeybees with me!

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