Checking In On Our Girls

Some beekeepers wait longer than just one week before they check in on their bees, but we’re excited and impatient, so we’re checking our hives today!  Here’s the Chief of Implementation in his bee jacket and hood, wearing light colored clothes. He’s smoking the top of the hive where the feeder is.  Once again, he’s done an excellent job with the smoker and it’s producing dense white smoke that is COOL so we don’t blow hot thin smoke on the bees.

Wearing Bee Gear and Smoking the Hive to Calm the Bees

Wearing Bee Gear and Smoking the Hive to Calm the Bees

We’ll be checking each frame on each hive looking for several things.  First, how full is the hive?

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The top super isn’t very busy, so the frames may not be filled.  It’s important that the queen has enough room to lay eggs, and the workers have enough room to raise brood, store honey, bee bread, and pollen.  If the bees are crowded, they’re more likely to swarm.

Sure enough, there’s NO honeycomb on this drone frame.  Drone eggs are usually laid in slightly larger cells, and encouraging the queen to lay all her drone eggs together makes it easier to control varroa mites.

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There is some new comb hanging off the bottom of this frame.  When bees build comb outside of frames, it’s called burr comb.  Our bees are a race within the bee species (Apis mellifera) called Carniolian, and are are especially prone to making burr comb.  The big advantage of Carniolian bees is that they are VERY gentle.  Here’s are a couple of pictures that show just how gentle they are.

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Next, we look for brood at a variety of stages of development and plenty of comb being used for food storage.

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This is freshly drawn comb, which is why is SO pretty and white.  The lower left quarter has eggs.  They look like tiny strings standing in the bottom of the cells.  The center and the upper right quarter shows yellowish pollen or bee bread.  This provides protein for hungry bees.  The upper right quarter also shows honey.  It’s a very light colored liquid because the bees are spending most of their time drawing comb and are eating sugar water rather than flying out for nectar.  They’ll fan this with their wings until enough water has evaporated to make honey.  They they’ll cap the honey cells.

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This is older comb, so it’s a darker color since at least a generations of bees have hatched, grown up and emerged from it with all the attendant mess.  There are whitish C shaped grubs visible in some cells in a variety of sizes.  There are also capped cells with a slightly convex yellowish cap.  These contain pupae which will metamorphose and tear the caps off to emerge.

There are a nice variety of stages, so the queen has been laying well.

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Speaking of the queen, we do look for her, but we don’t worry if we can’t find her.  There are THOUSANDS of bees in a hive, and it’s easy to miss the one bee that’s a bit bigger than the others.  Many beekeepers mark the queen with a dot of paint for visibility.  We were lucky and found the queen in one of the hives.  She has a green dot.

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We were a little concerned that we didn’t find eggs or a queen in the other hive, but also noticed what may be queen cells. Near the center of the picture a cell sticks up high above the other cells.   There were several similar cells in this hive.  It may have lost its queen when we installed it, and started feeding up a few candidate queens, so we’ll be watching it closely.

We also kept our eyes open for any sign of pest damage or illness.  We paid attention to the brood pattern.  When a colony is healthy, brood cells form a fairly dense sphere centered on the available frames.  Honey is stored on outer frames and upper frames generally.

Our girls are doing well!

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5 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Sustainable Living

5 responses to “Checking In On Our Girls

  1. Fascinating!
    I am very impressed by your ability to explain this complicated process in a way a layman can easily follow and understand. How long have you been beekeeping?

    Like

  2. There are so many pleasing things about honeybees– fuzzy, friendly, productive… We moved some out of our house wall once, and into a hive, but we didn’t educate ourselves, as you have done, and they perished in the winter. I still have the frames and smoker and veil…hmm.

    Love the close photos and great information here.

    Like

  3. WOW WEE, this is so neat to see up close and personal! Eek!

    Like

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