Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jumpy jumpy...

Today I made a trip to Sutton to see the Sutton Hives. I asked my bee-friend Michele, who lives not-too-far-away, to go with me for a second set of eyes (and hands).

Sutton Hive 2

My goal here was to again look for the queen, or at lease find more recent evidence of her. Last time I saw lots of capped brood, but no young larvae or eggs.

Today when I opened up the hive, I could tell right away that something wasn't right. The bees were extra jumpy, or "twitchy" as some say. They were more aggressive than usual, and the guard bees were head-butting me earlier and harder than usual. Michele said she was butted a bunch and she was standing off to the side. Michele has a history of aggressive bees - she had a hive last year with the most aggressive bees the county bee inspector has seen - and he's seen a lot of hives. When I picked her up this afternoon, I walked over to her hives, and while I was about 10 feet away, one of her bees came and gave me the business - I had to retreat to a pine tree to make her leave me alone (but in fairness, that hive was recently queenless).

Inside the hive we saw some older capped brood, and a few cells (mostly drone cells) of uncapped brood. According to bee math, that means the queen was around about 9 days or so ago. But given the lack of eggs and the twitchiness of the bees, we suspect this hive is queenless. Who knows what happened to the queen - I may have inadvertently damaged her in a previous inspection.

We took a frame of eggs and young larvae from Hive 1 (the new hive) and transferred it to this hive. If they are indeed queenless, they should start to make a new queen. I'll monitor the situation next week to see if I see evidence of a new supercedure cell.

It also looks like I am going to get some honey off of this hive. We found frames full of nectar, and they had just begun the process of capping it off. There are 2 shallow supers plus the one medium super (with undrawn foundation) that I added. We switched the medium super to the bottom of the super stack, so they will be forced to cross it and maybe fill it more.

I still have the super boxes offset which gives the bees an upper entrance. They seem to like it - lots of bees using it. Michele was concerned about rain getting in, but so far I haven't heard any complaints! :-)

Sutton Hive 1

This hive continues to do well. They had drawn out about 5 or 6 frames. Michele convinced me to give them a leg-up by putting in some already-drawn frames so that the queen will have somewhere immediately to lay. So I did for 3 frames (since we did rob them of one frame of eggs for Hive 2). I also added more sugar syrup (they had consumed almost all of the 2 jars I put on there before).

Sorry no pictures for this entry - we were too busy talking during the inspection to take pictures. But I did have a chance to demonstrate to Michele how to mark a queen (by using an unsuspecting drone).

It was also interesting comparing beekeeping styles. Michele commented that I am more forceful in smoking the hive, and she tends to be less so. But she also gave me some advice on packing my smoker to have it stay lit longer.


  1. That's smart adding a frame of bees from the other hive - if there's a queen, no problem. If there's not, they've got something to work with to make one.

  2. What was the smoker packing advise? I'm enjoying reading your blog.


  3. She told me I wasn't packing the pine needles tight enough. I was afraid of putting out the fire, but it turns out it needs to be "put out" and just smoldering embers...


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