After a few days of rain, it was finally nice enough to inspect the hives. In fact, it was a little too warm - I was sweating like a hog! But mid/high 70's is a good temperature for the bees.
When last checked, the queen castle was struggling. The second and third chambers had further dwindling bees. Well, I checked it today, and it was even worse condition. There was probably only about 3/4 cup of bees in each of the chambers - take a look at this pitiful frame:
I addition to the few bees, you can see a lot of brood that has never emerged - I suspect the nights got too cold for the few nurse bees to keep the brood warm, and it got chilled and died. Here's another shot with a lot of half-born bees. Sad.
In addition to few bees, the two chambers were absolutely overrun with big black ants. They enjoyed the feast of sugar water and nectar, and there weren't enough bees to keep the ants at bay.
Luckily the first chamber had a good number of bees, but I did not see a queen or eggs. It's still a but pre-mature to call it a complete failure - on the 31st I should see some eggs. I ended up pulling the divider between the first and second chamber, and added a frame of nectar I pulled from the pink hive (more on that later). So I ended up making a 6-frame nuc out of the two seconds, and I hope that if there is a queen, she'll have more resources. I also added the pitifully few bees from the other two sections.
So I'm about ready to declare my queen castle experiment a failure. If I end up with a queen in the first chamber, it'll be a miracle.
I did an inspection of the Pink hive. The honey super was very light - almost empty. They are putting the nectar in the upper brood chamber like gangbusters. As this hive swarmed because it became honey-bound, I pulled out a couple of frames full of nectar/honey and put in some empty drawn frames. This will give the queen (if/when she starts) plenty of room to lay. I moved those two frames to the queen castle to reinforce their stores.
Still no evidence of a queen. But it has until the 31st, and then I'll probably buy a queen.
The brown hive continues to do well. The honey super had a good 7 frames with nectar in it - they have to finish it off and cap it before it is ready to harvest. When I separated the upper and lower hive bodies, there was a good number of bees on the top bars:
The upper chamber was pretty full, so I removed a frame and put in a fresh empty one (drawn). I also removed a frame with new eggs and larvae and put it in the blue nuc (see below).
The blue nuc was made at the same time as the queen castle, and it is doing well with regard to the number of bees. But I didn't see evidence of a queen (yet). I took a frame of new eggs and larvae from the brown hive to put into the nuc, just in case they don't have a queen. They will make a new queen from those eggs.
I am not too concerned about the blue nuc - I am not depending on it for anything. I will get a queen for the pink hive if it doesn't have one next week, but I don't mind waiting for the blue nuc to develop one of their own.
I also got a chance to go to Sutton and inspect the hives there.
Sutton Hive #1
This hive continues to be a booming hive - full full full of bees! I put a honey super on it a while back, but they have done nothing with that hive.
Here's the top of the top box right after I opened it up, and you can see a ton of bees there!
I inspect from the bottom up, so I cracked open the two boxes to take a peek. Here's what I found:
What you are looking at is a lot of brace (or burr) comb, built between the bottom bars of the top box, and the top bars of the bottom box. The white things you see are drone larvae that were unfortunately damaged when I separated the boxes. The bees had built this comb every which way - not just in line with the frames. It was bridging multiple frames. These bees were building a lot of drones, which is a good sign (they won't make drones if there aren't enough resources)
When I got done inspecting the bottom, there were still tons of bees on the top of the bars:
The brood pattern looked pretty good. I didn't see a lot of eggs and larvae, but I saw enough to know the queen is there (I didn't see her, even though I looked).
Since I had a swarm at home due to being honey bound, I am very mindful of making sure this didn't happen. I removed two pretty full frames of honey/nectar from the top box and replaced them with empty comb, to give the queen more laying room.
When I got done and put everything back together, I had to take a picture of this hive. Can you believe the number of bees here???
Sutton Hive #2
Hive #2 wasn't a populous as hive one, but it looked good nonetheless.
The first frame I pulled out from the bottom chamber had the queen on it!
This was the one I found and marked last time; it's so much easier to spot the queen when she is marked!
The upper chamber was super heavy, so I removed a couple of honey-bound frames from that one, and replaced them with empty drawn comb.
Finally, when I was finishing up and loading things up in my truck, I saw this on the driveway:
You'll notice a theme in what I've been doing lately - I've been removing frames of honey/nectar and replacing them with empty frames. So I have a few frames that I need to empty out. I plan on using my new extractor and extracting out the frames. I'll save the honey and nectar to feed back to the bees this fall. It isn't for human consumption, because 1) some of the frames are not capped, so it isn't ready to be honey, and 2) some of the nectar may actually be sugar syrup. So it's just for the bees.