Hive inspection 21 Feb 2016
The temperature was in the upper 60s today so even though it was cloudy with a light breeze I opened the hive to see what my colony was actually doing. OMG–do I ever have lots of bees.
Yesterday and today there was a lot of activity in and out of the hive. Some of the bees seemed to be just flying around the hive. I wondered if this was orientation flights for “new” bees.
Friends, also beekeepers, came to help with the inspection and videoed the frames as I pulled them out for inspection. None of us could guess what we were likely to see when we opened the hive. Other beekeepers have reported colony loss and/or low populations coming out of winter, so I wasn’t expecting so many bees. My hive is set up with three medium bodies for brood and honey.
Since this is my first winter as a beekeeper, I wasn’t sure what to expect. From my las inspection, I knew that the girls and continued to draw comb all winter and to build some
impressive burr comb in a strip on the frames of the upper body in the space where the candy board was–before they ate it all. After removing the quilt box and the frame that used to have candy in it, the first task was to remove that burr comb. There was some capped brood and honey in this, but I removed it anyway. I was expecting the girls to get a bit testy when I did that but they didn’t.(I can still say that I have a very gentle colony. I was able to do the entire inspection without gloves.) ithWe did use the smoker more liberally than usual for me, simply because there were so many bees that I had to have them move down onto the frames before each was pulled out to look at the brood pattern, honey stores, pollen, and search for the queen.
We did use the smoker more liberally than usual for me, simply because there were so many bees that I had to have them move down onto the frames before each was pulled out to look at the brood pattern, honey stores, pollen, and search for the queen.
The bees have drawn more frames since my last inspection–even the outside frames in the second and third frames were being drawn out though in the second body they were not filled with honey. We were able to see brood in all stages of development. The queen was in the middle body–just trucking around doing her thing. The capped brood pattern looked good. There were capped drone cells, and drone pupae in the burr comb. We saw drones moving about on some of the frames–but probably not an excessive number given the overall population of the colony. I’ve seen drones flying, and the girls seeming to show some reluctance to let them return to the hive. Since it’s spring, they are raising drones so that they can go to drone congregation areas and mate with virgin queens.
As we pulled the frames from the middle body, I could look down onto the frames in the lower body–and I could see LOTS of bees there too. It seems that I have wall-to-wall bees in the hive. We found one queen cell, still open, at the bottom of one frame.
The hive is crowded so I anticipate making a split soon to prevent (I hope) swarming. I didn’t do that today as starting tomorrow the temperatures are supposed to drop back into the lower 50s (except for Wednesday when 65 °F is predicted. I didn’t think that there was enough stored honey to do a split today–though there are certainly enough bees. Now it’s decision time–and time to consult an experienced beekeeper! Do I do a split, or do I add a super to this hive. (Thankfully, tomorrow is bee school so I have an opportunity to talk to experienced beekeepers.)
I’m sure I need to do something to provide more room for the colony or they will likely swarm. I set up another hive just on the basis of how many bees I saw last inspection and the amount of activity at the hive, but I was NOT expecting such a large population at this time of year. But there is now a second hive waiting for occupancy!
This time, as I set up the hive I’m putting in ant defense–water trays around the concrete blocks. I didn’t think to do that with the first hive so resorted to ground cinnamon sprinkled around the hive and cinnamon sticks tucked around the blocks. Next time I have the first hive down to the bottom board, I’ll put trays under those blocks as well. Experience is a good teacher!
Now since I’ve graduated to two hives, I think I need to name them (#1 and #2 just don’t seem quite fitting for all those busy little creatures.) and I want need to be able to keep track of my queens (again, 2015 and 2016 just don’t seem appropriate either) so I’m contemplating names. I’ve had some possible suggestions from my FB posts (including Gryffindor and Slytherin) which dos suggests possibilities for naming queens as well.