Archives for posts with tag: inspection

I decided last Monday was a great day to open the hive and check the progress on the remaining four frames. I had invited a friend and her young son to join me since she had expressed interest. In the process I learned a few things:

  1. I get really excited sharing what I’m learning about beekeeping, especially with youngsters who are so curious about them. This is mostly a good thing, but it does take more time and the hive is open longer, which does not make for happy bees. In the future, I’ll plan a reduced inspection when guests are present to minimize everyone’s stress.
  2. When the buzz volume increases, this is the bees giving a gentle warning to wrap things up quickly. Choose to disregard this warning at your own risk. I did not heed their warning and was stung on the hand.
  3. By Tuesday afternoon the swelling was such that my knuckles were no longer visible and I had to leave work from the discomfort in my hand coupled with a splitting headache. I used two homeopathic remedies (Apis and Ledum) and a bit of honey, but my reactions seem to be getting more severe than the first two times I was stung and something stronger was required. I’ll be keeping Benadryl on-hand going forward. It’s a miracle worker for bringing the reaction under control; the swelling started subsiding within an hour of ingestion. Thank you, Western pharmaceuticals!
  1. My friend, who had been standing about 10 to 15 feet away, was also stung, right at the time when I located the queen. In my concern about my friend, who had a couple bees in her hair when I looked over at her, I put the frame back into the hive rather hastily without paying close attention to the queen’s whereabouts at that moment. Normally, that might not be a big concern, but when I had spotted her she was towards the top heading in the general direction of the outer edge where she was at greater risk when the frame was slid into place. When I later went to find her again to show her to my friend’s son, I couldn’t find her, sending me into a panic that she’d somehow been squished and leading to me rechecking several frames trying to find her. This is what ultimately led to learnings #1 through #3.
  2. No construction had occurred on the four remaining frames, three with foundation and one without, leading me to suspect that the boom and bust construction cycle is predominantly driven by my workforce, or lack thereof, and less by their sentiments towards foundation. They do appear to have more resources as evidenced by multiple frames containing honey, including some nice capped sections that can be seen in the photos below.

At the point I closed the hive back up with a fresh pollen patty, I still did not know if the queen was alive or dead and I now have my own version of Schrödinger’s cat: Prestera’s bee. Curiosity is getting to this cat and I think I am going to check for her tomorrow morning because, if I did harm her, I need to make a plan to re-queen my hive and now is not the easiest season to acquire queens. Wish me luck!

We went over early to check on the bees this morning before it got too hot, since heat can lead to cranky bees. It’s a little weird not peeking out the window to check on the bees each morning, and I hope we can get back to our home soon. The bees were buzzing about when we arrived; they have really been enjoying the oregano, basil, and mint that are in various stages of bloom in the backyard. I puffed a little smoke into the entrance as a way of saying, “Here I come” and then opened the top. In the video you’ll see them move down into the hive when I use the smoke. Please ignore my footwear. It is not appropriate beekeeping wear, but my tennis shoes didn’t work with my outfit for the day, and the bees have yet to go for my feet.

I did have one bee sacrifice herself in defense of her hive today. She stung my hand, unsuccessfully, thanks to my gloves.

The girls have been good eaters of pollen, but have slowed a bit on the syrup. Two weeks ago they were going through the syrup more quickly and now they’ve hardly touched it. That reminds me that they can use their propolis to seal the openings, so I’ll check that soon to be sure they can get to the syrup. There were bees around the lid so I assumed they could, but it wouldn’t hurt to verify. Two frames are filled with bees, and they’ve started building out comb on the next frame over. That was exciting to see! It’s partially filled with brood, capped and uncapped, and there is a little honey and pollen. I easily found the queen, thanks to her blue marking, but again can’t say that I could see eggs. What I did find were some very small larvae and some larger ones that maybe are close to pupating. There is less honey stored than two weeks ago, which is likely due to my expanding workforce during the dearth, which is what it’s called when the nectar flow slows and there is less available forage.

Fresh comb under construction and used for expanding the brood nest.

All in all, things are looking good so far. It’s been nearly two months since Queen Aliénor was installed and the hive is expanding well.

It’s always exciting to check on the progress of the hive. Once we removed the feeder and inner cover we saw that they had devoured all of the pollen patty, but had not eaten much of the sugar syrup. Moreover, there were clearly a lot more bees than with which we started. When we first captured the swarm, I barely had one side of a frame and now there are bees on two frames, plus they are moving out to a third.

Me carefully pulling out a frame.

Below is a comparison of one frame a week after requeening (left), and two weeks later on the 16th (right). These are two different frames, but it gives an idea of the increase in bees. The frame on the right is one my friend gave me that had capped brood (baby bees going through their process from egg to larva to adult bee), which you can still see a few of on the frame. They’re the 15 or so reddish-brown spots that you see on the comb towards the middle-top where there aren’t many bees.

They still haven’t built much new comb, and they have very little honey stored, so that is a bit worrisome. I’ve been feeding sugary syrup using a black, plastic jug type thing with a small metal screw-top lid with holes in it. Food in the black plastic may last a little longer before growing algae or fermenting, so it may be better for the bees, but it’s harder to assess their use of it. You may have noticed something black on top of my hive in the video on my last post…that was the feeder.

Since the hive inspection, my friend gave me a different feeder to try that has more area available from which the bees can feed. I like this one a bit better as it is made from clear plastic and has measurements on the side so I can gauge how much they are drinking, if at all. The clear plastic may grow algae or ferment faster than the black plastic, but once I have a better idea how much they’re eating, I can adjust and not fill it as full so as to avoid spoilage. Also, since it sits flat on the inner cover, I avoid crushing bees as I did when I checked the other one where the lid fit into the hole in the inner cover. In case you are curious, here are pictures of the two types:

There are also other types of feeders that I have yet to try. I’m hoping that feeding the bees is just a short-term thing I’ll need to do until next spring and that beyond that, my colony will be self-sustaining. We’ll see!

The rest of the inspection went well. I haven’t been able to spot eggs as they are really tiny, like a grain of rice, and my eyes are old so that even with my glasses and in full sun, I have yet to be able to confidently say I have seen one. I can though see the brood (bee larvae) and cappings indicating that new baby bees are growing.

In search of eggs…
…and the quest continues

I’ve also found the queen each time, which is pretty easy to do with her bright blue marking. I’ve noticed that her marking is fading a bit and there is a gap that wasn’t there in the beginning. Maybe it’s a result of her entourage cleaning her? In any case, all looks well with the hive. I’ll do another inspection where I remove the frames in two to three weeks.

Long live the Queen!
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