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 there 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.)
I 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.
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.