Saturday, May 9, 2009

Queen bee inspection is a buzzing success!

Bee update: First queen bee inspection

If you are following along at home I left off at installing the queen and the bees in the hive a few weeks ago. Since then I have been feeding them and checking them by watching them and peering up into the hives from the bottom.

Today it was warm and sunny all day and I had been wanting to do a queen inspection for more than a week to make sure they were moved in and laying. Last week was rainy and cloudy and you're not really supposed to open the hive on days like that because they can be 'grumpy' and nobody wants that, especially me! Once Emiloo got home from work and had some dinner we packed up the sugar water, the cool new hive tool she got me (aka heavy duty paint scraper), my awesome veil, and the smoker and trekked up to Location B and got ready.

Note to self: the Bic bar-b-que lighter thingy rules, I must include it in the bee toolbox (once I get one.) Second note to self: Need to fabricate a frame holder for inspections.

Ok on with the story.
Emiloo was set up with the camera a safe distance away and behind the hives. The smoker was lit and puffing nice thick cool smoke. I donned the veil I have come to love and moved the cinder block off of Hive One. Hive One (the hive on the left from the back) is 'ahead' I think as they have nice straight combs on 4 frames, which I will include pictures of below, and just seem to be more organized and calm. Once I opened it up I only saw a little bit of comb up in the top hive feeder which is great and means they are building down below where they should.

After removing the feeder I lift the 'inner board' and see some big comb hanging from it (picture below). Doh! That's my fault actually. Here's what it looked like:

Begin Flashback: During the queen installation back in April I had forgotten to remove the cork from the cage she came in so after closing the hive up and adding sugar water to the top feeder and closing it up I had to reopen it again to take care of the queen cage problem. Then on Hive One I realized I forgot to put the last frame back in after I had finished closing the hive the second time. At that point on that day I had already opened the hive twice and didn't want to upset them more as I was sure I could get it back in there in a week or two. Ahem, oops. I'll have to solve that another day as well. End Flashback.

Anyway back to today. I set the 'inner board' upside down between the hives and started checking frames. I found 4 that had nice comb and two that had reached very close to the bottom of the frames. Those same two frames were glued together with comb but retaining the proper bee space between them and again I didn't want to destroy them since there were only two and they looked good and functional. At some point I will have to separate those too I suppose. For now I will let them start raising young and require perfection later. Here's the two frames that are waxed together:

The pictures this time are mostly from Hive One and I'll tell you why:
Hive two (the one on the right standing behind them) is doing ok, but they have cross combed the frames. This means that instead of following the frames and building parallel comb they have gone diagonally across the frames essentially making 4 frames move as 1. It was beautifully spaced and I didn't have the heart to destroy it and put them back another 3 weeks so I left it alone. They did have a frame of free comb that had pollen and the beginnings of honey and some of the comb out of the feeder had eggs and larvae so that was a positive sign the queen was alive and well doing her job as expected. Excellent news.

I reassembled the hive and put the 'inner board' on it and then finally the top of Hive Two was back on. The initial queen inspection was over and was successful. Then I heard Emiloo yelp in surprise about something on her leg. Then she said "It's the queen!"

"Aww fiddlestix" I said calmly (that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) The quick thinker she be Emiloo leaned down with a stick and quickly retrieved the runaway queen off the ground. I took the queen and swung around to the front of the hive and put her near the entrance of Hive Two. She went right in and none of the bees hanging around seemed concerned which meant I had the right queen at the right hive as placing her in the wrong hive meant certain, immediate and probably a pretty horrible death.

Ok so to recap: smaller amounts of burr comb overall, the queens are laying and there are future comb issues to work out. All in all it was another successful inspection and I am very happy where they are and how they are doing. As promised this continues to bee an awesome hobby.

Here's some pictures of the action:

This next one is an example of the comb in a frame. This is all wax with none of the wires or base layer used commonly. I wanted to try this because it was more natural (as if raising bees in a box is natural.)
And another smaller one:

This closeup of comb shows two kinds of cells. On the right hand side is the larger Drone comb for the males who's only job is to mate. They are bigger than the rest of the workers and you can see that reflected in the size of their cells. On the left hand side of the comb is worker cells and honey storage.

This is a closeup shot of what the eggs look like. They are very small and look like a comma. The Queen is definitely doing her thing.

Well that's it for now. Another week and I can go see how far along they are. Flowers are blooming and I see quite a few arriving back to the hive with their leg pockets full of pollen. I will continue feeding them sugar water while they increase their numbers these next few months and maybe soon I can put another hive body on top of the current ones so they can continue growing.

Thanks again for stopping by, see ya!
Jim of Jimily

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