Saturday, July 3, 2010

Recent Inspections -- sorta honey, queen marked, but 23???

The title will make sense later on :-)

I was out of town for the last week or so, and will be gone next week to a (90-degree-plus) Boy Scout summer camp, so I thought I'd give the hives an inspection.

Sutton Hive 2

I visited this hive late last week, and I knew I needed to bring more feed. Sure enough, the hive had emptied the jars (and propolised up the lids so that I had a hard time removing them!). The hive has a good amount of bees, as can be seen from this picture of the top brood box:

I had a difficult time lifting up the top box from the bottom box - almost as if it were glued together at the frames. Well, when I got it up, here's what I found:

What you are looking at is a ton of brace comb with drone brood in it. I'm not sure if the "bee space" is right or not, but apparently the bees felt the need to add comb between the upper and lower frames. They made it as drone comb, and unfortunately you can see there was a lot of damage. I scraped off everything and we'll see if this happens again. It may be that there is too much space, and I may need to trim down the box. That's a pain in the neck, because I would have to swap the frames into a different box while I do it. I'll keep an eye on things.

Sutton Hive 1

This hive is the one which has the best chance of giving me honey. But so far they haven't completed capping off any honey. Here's a picture of the "best" frame in the super:

You can see it's only about half capped. Other frames in that super are at a similar state. There are 2 shallow supers on the hive, which started out as already-drawn foundation. They are filling them nicely. Underneath those 2 supers is another super with foundation, and they have been very slow in drawing that out.

I also had to do some maintenance on that hive. The hive owner painted the hive body pieces that were unpainted, and I needed to swap them into this hive so he can paint more pieces. I had to move frame by frame the lower hive body to the new body, and I put it on the new base. Here's a picture of the activity in progress:

The bees were seriously not happy with me for doing this! There were hundreds in the air, and I am honestly surprised I didn't get at least one sting out of the experience. But now I have some more hive pieces for the owner to paint (you can see the right hive body in the picture above shows bare wood in spots). Painted beehives last longer.

Home Nucs

This afternoon I gave the home nucs an inspection. The bees have been really flying this week due to the warm weather!

I started with the Grey Nuc, because I wanted to see and mark the queen. Here are a couple of pictures of the nice brood pattern of the queen in this nuc:

My apologies that the second picture is fuzzy - we got a new compact camera and it is definitely going back to the store - I don't like the focus ability (or lack thereof).

I was able to find and grab the queen, and I tried out my new queen marking tube. Here she is after I marked her:

The tube makes it really easy to mark the queen. Basically you catch her, put her in the clear tube, and push up the plunger (which has a piece of foam rubber). You gently trap her against the plastic screen on the top, and touch her with the marking pen. Then you lower the plunger and let the paint dry for a minute. The only problem I had is getting her out of the tube - she was holding on to the screen, and wouldn't go down. I had to give her a shake, and down she went. Now all of my nuc queens are marked.

I moved on to the Brown Nuc, with the fancy painted medium super on top. The bees had been busy in the super, drawing out some of the foundation. You can see so here:

Interesting to note in the picture above is the piece of vertical perpendicular comb the bees built. This comb bridged two of the frames. I suspect they did this because the frame may have had a patch of unwaxed plastic on it.

But in the lower portion of the nuc the queen is laying up a storm. Here's a frame showing a good pattern, with honey along the top:

I had not looked at the White Nuc since I put in the new queen's cage two and a half weeks ago. I left for a week+ of vacation and didn't take out the cage, so I was worried they would fill up the spaces with burr comb, but other than a few bridges, they didn't do to bad. I was able to scrape off the comb and add the empty frame I previously removed to put in the queen cage.

I got some pictures of this queen. I bought her from George O'Neil of the bee club, and like the other queen I bought from him, she is a dark queen. You can see how dark her body is (in the 2nd picture, she has her head in a cell - you can barely see the blue spot). I'll have to ask him about the genetics of his bees next time I see him.

Green Hive

Like I said above, the hives were very busy this past week. So I had my hopes up a little. But it was not to be - I didn't see any changes in the honey collection from past weeks. There is one frame which is pretty full of nectar, but as you can see, they aren't even starting to cap it:

When I got into the upper hive body (below this super), I did find a couple of heavy frames full of nectar/honey:

So maybe they are putting things here in stead of up top. You can't tell bees what to do so I will have to put up with it.

I found a frame with some new eggs on it, so I know the queen is doing her job:

(again, sorry for the bad picture). The eggs are in the center of the picture in the sun-lit area. Her brood pattern looks real good too:

So I think things are doing well with this hive. Imagine my shock when I take out the next frame and find this!!!

Look along the bottom - those are swarm cells. On this frame, there were ten swarm cells (a couple of them capped). On the next frame over were an additional thirteen, making 23 swarm cells in this hive!

Back in May I had removed a couple of frames due to the presence of swarm cells (that's where I have 2 new nucs). I certainly don't want nor need 23 more nucs, so I decided to remove these swarm cells. It could be that the hive thinks there is not enough space to lay, since those frames of honey are in the middle of the brood area. I moved the honey frames outward, and moved in some of the empty comb. Hopefully the hive will like that and not swarm. I'll check next week and see what is happening.

Brown Hive

This hive is doing well, but is not very populous. The queen is laying well, as can be seen by this frame:

Based on when I put in the queen, in another week or so we should have a lot more foragers. But what was interesting when I checked the bottom brood box, the comb there was absolutely empty - just one frame had a little pollen in it. There was no honey, no brood, nothing. Some bees were down there, but it looks like the bees are ignoring the bottom chamber and working only in the top. There is still plenty of space up there, so I am not inclined to do anything unless I have a good reason.

And finally, I took this picture. You can see all the little worker bees lined up in a row, sticking up their heads along the top of the frame, looking out at what I am doing. I thought it was cute! :-)


  1. Hey, Steven. My dad met a guy who has his hives sitting on scales. He can tell how they are doing on honey production by watching the weight increase. He's got one that was increasing by a few pounds each day! I wonder how much a scale like that would cost! Have you seen a set up like that?

  2. Steven: Fantastic brood patterns on your frames. You must be very proud of your bees.

    Re the brace/burr comb between the boxes, that's totally normal in hives. The old timers taught me when scraping up the comb, if it has honey, to set it in front of the hive for the bees to lick up.

  3. @Todd - I've heard of that; in fact the county bee inspector has some hives on scales and he measures/graphs weight to know when the major nectar flows are in.

    @Barbara - I love the patterns; but the bees aren't bringing in the honey worth a darn! That's got me frustrated and I don't know what to do about it. I'd like to get a little honey for my troubles...

  4. Steven: A wise beekeeper (he's been at it for many years) told me that he eliminated a lot of the brace comb issues with a drone frame. I bought one for each hive, put it as the third frame in the upper deeps, and voila, I haven't had to scrape comb and irritate my bees. You just have to make sure you remove or switch them for a new one every time they fill it up. Help to eliminate bracing and helps with varroa mites too since they do love drone cells so much. You might give it a try! -Mark


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