Saturday, May 2, 2009

Inspection 5-2-09

Today was a great day for an inspection. All week the weather has been very nice - some days in the 80's! The bees are active, and I was excited to see how much farther they had progressed. It was a day of good news in the hive!

First good news - I saw the queen bee! Last time I checked, she was hiding (and I didn't do a good job of searching). This time I was specifically looking for her, and found her. See the picture above - the queen has a green dot on her back. Look how much larger she is compared with the workers. Also in this picture is a good example of a drone - he is to the left a little lower than the queen, almost to the wooden edge. Note he has large eyes (almost touching), and a square bottom, and his wings go all the way to the end of his body (by comparison, worker bees' wings don't reach the end of their bodies).

Other good news was that I saw a good healthy pattern of brood. Look at the following picture (click on it to enlarge):

This picture shows a good time sequence of the baby larvae. Starting at the left edge (by the wood) you can see some very young larvae. They are probably about 4-5 days old. As you move to the right, you see successively older larvae, until you get to the point where the cells are covered up ("capped") by wax. Since the queen bee lays from the center outward, this pattern makes sense.

Notice some empty holes toward the center of the frame. The gestation of a honeybee is 21 days from egg to full worker. Since I installed the queen 18 days ago, I don't think those are from a bee being born. I think the queen just skipped the cell for some reason. I am told that a few skips like this is normal. Next week I think we'll have more empty cells, due to bees being born!!

Also of note on the left edge right at the wood is what looks like a larger cell. That is a drone cell, built in preparation for the queen to lay a drone egg (which is just like a worker egg, but left unfertilized so it grows up as a male). The hive always keeps a decent supply of drones during the spring and summer, to mate with other queens in the wild. Workers always seem to put the drone cells at the edges or on the corners of the frames (the "low rent" district perhaps?).

This next picture is from a frame more toward the center of the hive (where the queen started laying earlier). Note that it is almost fully capped - that means that these are older cells, and have pupae in them far along in their development. Along the edge there are some cells with pollen in them. In the corner (not wisible) is a little bit of honey storage. See if you can also spot some drones just hanging out!

It is really fascinating watching this all unfold - it's one thing to read about it; it's another altogether to hold the frame of bees in your hand!

Overall, I found about 5 1/2 to 6 frames drawn out and being worked. The books recommend waiting until they have about 7 frames drawn before you add the second "story" of the hive (with 10 more frames); so I think that may occur next week. The population of workers will increase as more are born, and there will be more workers to make more comb (remember, these so far are the original workers brought up from Georgia and installed with the package). When that new top story gets drawn out to about 7 frames, then I add the honey supers! For the past couple of days, I've noticed the bees not consuming much of the sugar syrup I provided. The books say that they will stop eating the sugar when they have good nectar and pollen to eat; I think that's what is happening. So I decided to stop feeding the sugar, and took off the empty body (covering the feeder). It now looks a lot shorter.

I also decided to switch the entrance reducer to the "medium" setting - instead of about 3/4" gap for the entrance, it is now about 3". One funny side effect of this is that due to the way the entrance reducer is cut, I had to put it where the entrance is on the left side of the front of the hive, instead of the right. Well all afternoon, the returning bees have been going to the right side, landing, and walking around all confused since the hole is now closed up. They eventually walk a few inches to the left and figure out how to go in to the hive, but it's funny to watch. I made a video of it:

When the returning bees land, since they can't immediately find the entrance, I've been able to spot more bees with very full pollen baskets. The pollen has a variety of colors - I've seen bright yellow, burnt orange, and even a white / gray color. Such industrious workers!!

As you can tell, I am excited about all of the things I am learning; I hope this blog is helping spread the information in an entertaining and enlightening way!

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