Hive Inspection (30 August ’15)

IMG_20150329_133928244_HDROMG–there are SO many bees in there. OK, I was expecting more bees given the traffic in and out of the hive looking like a really busy airport! (The RDU Apiport?  Sorry, just had to throw that in.)

Reality  hit when I lifted the inner cover. On my last inspection (15 August), the second medium box was only very sparsely populated-the girls were starting to draw comb on the foundation in it. There weren’t any full-depth cells, and no nectar or pollen then either.

(We’ve progressed from the nucleus colony that had only five frames in one medium box (right), to needing three medium boxes now!  Happiness! I’m still learning what is supposed to be there, but the insides of the hive are beginning to look familiar.)

When I lifted off the upper box and set it aside so I could look at the frames in the lower box, I could tell that it was a lot heavier than on the last inspection. Good sign! Means the bees are stashing pollen and nectar.

When I looked in the lower box (where the nuc was installed) I could see empty cells, presumably where brood had hatched but had not yet been filled or reused. I didn’t find queen in the lower box, though everything looked good and hive_IMG_20150815_114521440_HDRthere were lots of bees down there.

When I replaced the upper box and started inspecting those frames, I found the queen, and eggs. (It is really hard to see eggs. Now I know why the books say it’s good to have bright sunlight when you’re looking for them.) It was cloudy this afternoon and that made finding eggs really difficult. But there they were, and the queen was moseying around doing her thing with lots of workers . They had started to draw comb on all except the two outer-most frames of this box. I went to do this inspection expecting to add a third medium body to the hive–and I’m glad I did.  There was brood (capped and uncapped) in the upper box now, and queen (I think she needs a name!) was laying eggs up there. I knew that the population was increasing, but I didn’t really realize how much until today when I could look inside the hive. (I’ve been incredibly curious the last two weeks–it’s hard not to look every week, but not good for the bees. It’s disruptive when someone starts yanking you home apart.)

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hiveI often go out  and watch them come and go–it’s hard to describe how relaxing it is to watch. Looking inside the hive is an awesome experience–realizing that each bee has a job, and all that activity is purposeful, not chaos. Working with the hive, with bees buzzing around you, maybe walking on your arms or hands, is like being off in another world.  Before my hands-on experience, I didn’t fully appreciate what other beekeepers were trying to describe about the experience of working a hive with bees all around you.

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 I have a feeder that uses four quart jars.  I wanted to be able to just switch out the nearly empty ones for filled ones, so I got quart four regular-mouth Ball/Mason jars.   I took new filled jars with me to do the inspection–after my experiences with spilled sugar syrup, there’s no way I’m going to work with it anywhere but over the kitchen sink.

When I put the hive back together, it turned out that those jars are just a tad taller than the jars that came with the feeder, so a medium super isn’t quite deep enough. Since the bees access the jars below and can’t get into the upper super, I just let the outer cover be a bit catawampus this evening.  First thing tomorrow morning I have to make a trip to Bailey Bee Supply tomorrow for a shim so that the cover will sit properly.

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For the bees (and me)

After my experience with the dome veil and jacket while I was putting the new bees into the hive, my mission for today was to get a veil that would allow a lot more ventilation. My last experience while in the jacket and veil was a bit like looking at the world through raindrops–not the best for clear vision, especially looking at little moving critters and trying to find one specific little moving critter that (thankfully) had a nice, bright blue dot on her thorax. So, off to Bailey Bee Supply this morning.

new equipment on car seat

new stuff

As is likely typical of most of us when we start a new project/hobby, gadgets and new equipment are totally fascinating and there is such a variety to check out. I suspect that beekeeping gadgets are going to be like kitchen gadgets and widgets–a lot of them better  in advertisement than in actual practice, but you never know, though chatting with other beekeepers certainly helps in choosing, or not. You find out all sorts of things that never appear in the “book learning” part of beekeeping.

For example, in discussions of hats and veils that I’ve read online and in books, nowhere did I find any mention of having a chin strap on the helmet. A friend mentioned, while chatting on FB, that she wished her helmet had a chin strap. I was about to settle for the basic plastic helmet, when my brain registered the fact that a helmet sitting right in front of me had a chin strap–quick change, and I have a helmet that is ventilated and has a chin strap to support a veil that will allow some air flow. That doesn’t mean I won’t drip while working outdoors, but it should help.

Obviously I came home from the bee store with more than just a helmet and veil–just like when I go skulk around the kitchen store.  I had a delightful chat with the lady in the bee store about pros and consult of various gadgetry and her experience–much greater than mine, gave me useful information and contributed to my purchases.

After opening the hive once, I discovered that the disadvantages frequently described for a this type of hive-top feeder  8 Frame Miller Top Feederwere very real. Biggest one for me right now is the difficulty in lifting it off the hive without slopping sugar syrup all over the place. Think about lifting a big, fairly shallow pan–like when you use a bain-marie in the oven–how the liquid shifts and threatens to slosh.  Well, slopping sugar syrup all over me, the bees, the hive, and surrounds is not something I want to deal with right now when I’m doing frequent inspections for my learning experience. SO, new feeder. (Given the good points of this style of hive-top feeder, I suspect that I’ll use it again when I’m not in and out of the hive so often because it’s large capacity is attractive–so it’s not a write-off.)

Despite reading some very contradictory reviews on forums–seemly a definite love-it or hate-it reactions–I got a Bee Smart in-hive feeder in-hive feeder. I’ve read the instructions, and  I’ve been checking it out over the kitchen sink with water. It seems a little touchy about getting the cover screwed back on, but as long as I pay attention to that (and I think my OCD-tendencies will kick in there), it seems to work. Since can go on the inner cover, it will certainly make opening the hive easier for me right now.

My only other purchase was some Honey-B-Healthy–an all-natural feeding stimulant for bees that is HONEY-B-HEALTHY® Supplement 16 ozreported to help with some of the problems that one encounters with bees–like  Nosema ceranae and some of the other really nasty things that can get your bees! It’s not advertised for that (I guess like off-label drug use in humans), but for those attempting to do without giving heavy-duty medications unless absolutely necessary, it has good reports from experienced beekeepers.  So, add a bottle of Honey-B-Healthy concentrate for the girls.

Now comes the sort of hard part–they are not due for a hive inspection until Friday–I have to content to watch them carrying pollen into the hive.

bee with full pollen baskets

pollen into the hive