What a difference a week makes

Well, three weeks actually. It’s been two weeks since the last inspection, and three weeks since I put on the honey supers. In both hives, there was significant progress.

This is a view into the honey super of West hive. You can see drawn out comb, and the beginnings of white capping: Honey!

This is one of the four almost fully drawn out frames. The bees are busy filling the cells, and I am pretty sure these will be capped by my next visit.

Another frame out of West Hive. Nice and heavy.

This is West Hive’s queen excluder. The bees tried to build comb through it, and to connect the upper deep hive body with the honey super. Silly bees. The queen excluder is there to keep the queen from being able to reach the honey super, so she won’t lay eggs in those cells. That way, the workers only store honey in there. The metal wires are just wide enough for workers to squeeze through, but the Queen (and drones for that matter) are too large to fit.

This is a partially capped frame full of honey out of East Hive. About four or five frames had been drawn out, and filled with honey.

This picture shows the lower deep hive body of East Hive, mere minutes after I had pulled off the upper deep. There are A LOT OF BEES in each hive now. So many in fact, it makes the inspections somewhat more stressful.

Part of the problem is that I still seem to have problems with my smoker. I can’t seem to be able to keep it going consistently for the 2+ hours that an inspection now takes. Sure, I can re-fuel it after I am done with the first hive – but even then I am only having mixed results.

With that many bees, I seem to have to smoke them constantly. A few puffs quickly drive them down into the frames, but in no time at all do they re-surface. I think it’s a numbers game now. There are just a lot more of them now.

I am still not wearing gloves. But with that many bees, that may have to change. I have had quite a few close calls, where I accidentally squished a bee – I just was lucky enough to be out of the reach of her rear end. They are just pretty much everywhere now.

I don’t think there are more aggressive than they were a month or so ago, but the shear numbers that now fly all around me around when I “disturb” their hive is something else. I feel completely protected in my suit, so that part doesn’t stress me. But maybe if I start wearing gloves, I will be less on edge.

In a way I “paid” for not doing the inspection last week. There were a lot more glued together frames, I must have scraped off an ounce of propilis. Suuuper sticky! And quite a few frames in the lower deeps were stuck together. When I forced them apart, it tore quite a few cells, and in some cases honey started spilling everywhere. That threw me a bit off my game, too.

I have to think this is partially due to my inexperience. Having no frame of reference, I don’t know if my bees are just bad at keeping the comb within the limits of the frames, of if this is just what happens. I’m inclined to think the latter, but I just don’t know.

The book I am using as my guide, “Beekeeping For Dummies“, also mentions that after the first year, you shouldn’t really disturb them every week, as that sets back their progress. That makes me think that stuck together frames just happen, and that you can do a fair amount of “comb surgery” to keep things manageable. Bees are incredible recyclers, they will catch dripping honey and re-store it, and move broken wax comb to make new cells.

I have been slashing and cutting away a lot of the “weird” comb that just sticks out and makes things more difficult. I know that ends up killing a lot of pre-hatched bees in the progress, but I figure there are so many, a few dozen casualties are the cost of doing business.

Because there are so many bees now, I end up squishing a lot more when I manipulate the frames, too. I try very hard to gently push them out of the way, but as soon as one moves, another one just crawls in its place. My only worry is that one day by accident I’ll squish the queen. Since she has her entourage, and should mostly be hanging out on the side of frames, that chance is probably slim, but I still worry.

Speaking of the queens – I didn’t see either one. This is where a marked queen would really come in handy. But I saw fresh eggs in both hives, and the brood pattern looked nice and tight. So I think both of them are healthy and were around as of a couple of days ago.

I also did not observe any swarm cells or supersedure cells. I take that as a good sign, that there is ample room, decent ventilation, and that the colonies are happy with their respective queens.

I am debating whether to continue with weekly inspections, or whether to go to every two weeks for now. I think the risk would be that I might not catch signs of preparation to swarm, or to know when they need more room. Something to think about. If you have any good advice, comment away!
East Hive took a lot longer to settle down after the inspection this time.

This is West Hive, about the same time after I had put it back together. Much less outside activity.

In the center between the two hives, you can see a big black spot in both pictures. That’s where I had set down my smoker, and the high heat of the bottom had burned straight through the paint and charred the wood of the platform. I don’t think that’s quite supposed to happen like that. There is a perforated metal disk on the bottom of the inside of the smoker, that is supposed to keep any coals somewhat elevated. I need to check that out before I use it next. As hot and dry as it has been, I might accidentally start a small brush fire, if I don’t pay attention where I set it down!

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This entry was posted on Sunday, July 12th, 2009 and is filed under DanTheBeeMan. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.