Monday, May 30, 2011

First Full Hive Inspection

One of the good wife's sisters and family came to our home for Memorial Day weekend.  Her husband had talked to me about the bees, so I told him I would wait until he came before I inspected my bees.  They got here Saturday around noon and off we went to the hives.

I was anxious to see how the bees were doing.  How much comb had they drawn out?  Was there still sugar water for them in the hive top feeder?  WERE THE QUEENS THERE???  When I hived the bees last weekend, neither of the queens could be found.  Now granted, a lot of time wasn't spent looking for the queens as I didn't want to stress them out any more with the move from the nuc to the hive.

Oldest son had been asking me to get another bee suit so he could join me, so late last week another jacket and veil was purchased.  Oldest son can use it, and so can anyone that comes to visit and wants to take a look at the hives.  So let me know and stop by for a look!

A new smoker fuel was tried this time.  The gentleman I bought the extra jacket and veil from told me he used to use old blue jeans.  Natural cotton fiber and it would smoke a lot as it smoldered in the smoker.  So before we went out to the hives, one of my old pair of jeans with some holes in them (no longer good for checking bee hives) got cut into strips for the smoker.

Once at the hive, I was much more prepared.  I had the few tools and items I needed ready, although I forgot my squirt bottle of sugar water.  Next time.

I took off the top and there was still some sugar water in the hive top feeder.  That was good, as it was a week since I first checked and had no idea how much they would take.  The hive tool then came in handy to separate the hive top feeder and the hive body.  There were a lot of bees in there!

I pulled out the frame on the end and there were a few bees, but that was about it.  Nothing surprising.  Then we worked our way towards the middle, taking out frame by frame.

They were really starting to draw out some of my frames pretty well.  I was impressed.  It was working how it was supposed to be.

The bees seemed really active, and it was hot out and a storm was heading our way.  Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but every time I tried to grab a frame, the bees would always seem to move right where I was going to grab.  They would then crawl up on my fingers and hands.  It was a sensation that I still wasn't ready for.  They didn't look like they were going to sting me, but it still made me a bit nervous.

Oldest son was trying to spot the queen as we got into the middle frames that came from the nuc.  I was able to see that some of the brood had hatched and that there were new eggs in some of the cells.  The queen had been there.  That was just as good as seeing the queen, but we kept going.  We wanted to see what she looked like and how she was marked.

Then we saw her.  She had a nice yellow dot on her back.  She was moving around and the area she was in had new eggs and some larva there.  She was busy at work!

Oldest son is pointing to the queen in the photo above.  If you click on the photo and look at the full version, you can see the queen.

Oldest son and my brother-in-law traded the suit and he helped me with the next hive.  This one was also doing really well, and we did the same process in the search for the queen.  Again we saw some eggs and larva before the queen.  We ended up going all the way through the nuc frames to the other new frames and then we finally found the queen.  She was in there working away on a new frame that I had made for the hive.  A sense of pride and accomplishment, although I had very little to do with any of it.

The one really odd thing that has me curious, nervous and perplexed, is that it appears that there are a bunch of bees building comb on the outside of the hive under the screened bottom board.  I noticed that some of the nuc frames had comb underneath the frames, and that it had touched the screened bottom board.  I'm not sure if it was the bees that had been left in the nuc out front of the hive and that when they came back to the hive, they just went under the hive instead of in the hive?  I'm not sure if I should scrape that comb off there, or scrape the comb off the bottom of the frames?   If anyone reading this knows or has an informed opinion, please let me know.

I'll have to e-mail some of the people from the bee club to get their opinion.  They are always so generous and willing to take the time to help us new bee keepers.  Luckily, the next bee club meeting is this coming Thursday evening, so I should be able to get some answers by then.

The frames are filling out really well.  I may be able to put another hive body on next weekend or later that week.  If the population of the hive keeps growing, they are going to need the room and will be able to work quickly.

One tool I do need to remember to take with next time is a small strainer, such as a sugar strainer that you use for sprinkling onto french toast or something like that.  There were quite a few dead bees in my hive top feeder, and I would like to be able to scoop them out of there and clear the way.  Maybe the hive top feeder surface needs to be scratched up a bit to give the bees more traction.

With the one hive building comb underneath, it is straining my engineering common sense.  I am very much an orderly person and like to have lists.  Everything should be in its place and go according to common sense.  Bees seemed like the perfect hobby, hexagon cells, a defined social structure.  Everything should go like clock work.  Of course, ask any experienced bee keeper, and that is about the opposite of how it will go.  I can already tell that these bees are going to push me to expand my comfort zone, and that I am not driving.  I'm just a long for the ride.


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