These pictures are from 10 days and a week ago, covering our 4th hive inspection- in which we took a pretty thorough look at Mary’s top hive body (we’d planned to look at the lower one, too, but the bees were getting upset and the top body was full enough that we couldn’t easily lift it off. A full hive body can weigh 80 pounds!), and then the quick look at the hives we did a week ago when adding the honey supers.
We’d stopped feeding them syrup 10 days ago, at the last inspection; they clearly were thriving. When we supered the hives, we removed the feeders, too.
The 4th Hive Inspection
This picture shows close to a full frame of Mary’s work in the second (upper) hive body, during our 4th hive inspection. The white areas at the top are capped honey/syrup, and the lower areas have been filled with syrup but it’s not yet been condensed enough to be capped. toward the bottom there’s some burr comb- the girls tend to be pretty geometric when drawing comb for the brood, but sometimes let their inner artists run wild when drawing honey comb!
Justin has put the above frame back in. you can see bees on the two all-plastic frames on the outer edges; this was a relief to see, because sometimes bees don’t care for that. it is, though, much more sturdy than the conventional types (not to mention easier, since it comes already assembled!), so we wanted to try it. There are not many bees up on top because I’d just smoked them; if you look between the frames you can see there are some inside the hive.
Supering the Hives
Some shots of what we did when adding the empty honey supers to the three hives. As well as adding the queen excluders and honey supers, we took a quick look in the top hive bodies, and removed the solid plastic bottoms from our fancy bottom boards to allow more airflow through the hives when it gets really hot. We also took off the feeders, since we’d stopped feeding syrup. one generally doesn’t want to feed syrup with honey supers on, because then the honey gets diluted with syrup- the bees don’t care if it’s mixed, but we do! also, if there’s enough nectar to put on honey supers, there’s enough so that they don’t need feeding- and I have to believe that nectar is a healthier food for the girls than sugar syrup!
Our brand-new queen excluders and honey supers! The excluders are a wire mesh carefully designed to be big enough for worker bees, but not queens, to pass through. this keeps the queen from laying eggs in the supers intended for honey production, which she might otherwise do. Each of the supers has 10 frames, like the deeper hive bodies, but the frames are shallower so the whole thing is easier to lift, even when full of honey.
A nice shot of Justin smoking Susan before we started messing with her. These fancy bottom boards have a nifty little hole in the bottom, with a metal cover, so one can smoke the hives very efficiently before opening them up. Smoke does a number of things: it covers up their alarm pheromones, so the hive gets less stroppy, and it encourages the bees to pig out on the nectar and honey that’s in the hive, so they can take it with them if a forest fire shows up- and a full bee is generally a mellow bee. If they get full enough, they can’t bend their butts down enough to sting! or so I’ve heard.
I’m very pleased with this shot, because it shows a couple of interesting things about the brood process. I’ve circled a couple of cells in which, if you look closely, you can see bee larvae. they are probably approaching ready to be capped, since there’s capped brood- the light beige, slightly rounded cells- above them. The larvae is capped for the bee’s pupa stage, and will hatch out as a young adult worker. (Capped drone cells are larger, and the caps very rounded indeed, and a new queen inhabits a very large, peanut shaped cell.) The arrow points to a couple of empty cells among the brood. this is considered a Good thing, since ti shows that the workers are keeping an eye on the larvae as they grow, and are cleaning out any that have something wrong with them. this is a very desirable trait. I’m a bit concerned because this particular frame seems to have a number of them- but it’s also possible that the queen just missed a few cells, too. and if the workers decide they’re not happy with the queen’s performance, they’ll raise another one to replace her!
Susan is not thriving quite as much as Mary and Elizabeth, though she’s doing quite respectably. you can see a bit of a pollen patty still in the hive; the other 2 polished them off before now. she is working in the top hive body, but we’re not sure whether her queen has ventured up there to lay yet. The outer frames don’t yet have drawn comb. in short, she’s maybe a week or 2 behind Mary, but Mary’s doing brilliantly.
And here’s Elizabeth! She’s looking a lot like Mary in terms of her progress. since she’s the stroppiest of our girls, and we’d already done the other 2, we didn’t do much with her; I don’t think we even pulled a frame, but just peeked between them. she, too, is having no objections to the plastic frames.
Here’s Liz again, mostly reassembled with her new queen excluder and honey super. The inner and outer hive covers are propped up against the back. Justin, in his full beekeeping “haz-mat” suit, is about to put them on, then remove the solid bottom board and the feeder. Justin is unfortunately slightly obscured by one of our bird feeders.
I do think the next time we look at the hives- hopefully this weekend- we should pull a frame or 2 from Liz’s upper hive body, as well as seeing what progress the girls have or haven’t made in our honey supers.
Side note: I’m sorry these picture posts tend to be a bit delayed from real-time! it takes me a couple of hours, usually, to put them together from the raw pictures.
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