After my fun experience with my backyard hives swarming, I decided to go out to Sutton and check on those hives. Both hives were made from packages, and it is rare for a package to swarm the first year (although mine did my first year). I also wanted to see how they are progressing with the frames of honey/pollen/old bee parts I gave them to start with (from the dead-out hives).
When I arrived in the mid-afternoon, the bees were very active out front, as you can see from this video:
(I love taking pictures and videos - can you tell?)
Sutton Hive #1
I always inspect from the bottom up (this was a tip given to me by an experienced beekeeper - if you inspect from the top down, when you smoke the top box, it drives the bees to the lower box, and makes it more difficult to inspect with all those extra bees!). This was what I saw on the top of the bottom box:
Lots of bees - I like it! Here is one of the frames:
You see that along the bottom of the frame? No, it's not swarm / queen cells - it's just regular old comb where the bees felt they needed some larger drone comb. The frames themselves are worker sized cells, so sometimes the bees build this burr comb for the drones. That's what you get with pre-formed foundation. If you let the bees draw their own wax, then some of the cells will naturally be drone cells.
This hive didn't have a fantastic brood pattern - there was plenty of brood (and I even saw fresh eggs). But I attribute this to the fact that a lot of the frames started with honey and pollen in it already. The bees have to eat the honey and pollen to make room, and until then, the queen lays where she can.
I didn't see the queen in this hive (she is unmarked), so I was worried the "Sutton Curse" would be in effect. Last year I *never* saw the queen in the over wintered hive, no matter how much I tried!!
Sutton Hive #2
The second hive didn't seem to have as many bees as the first one. Here's the shot of the top of the bottom box; compare it with the photo above:
Not quite as many bees as the other hive, but still a good number.
Like hive #1, this hive built burr comb along the bottom. Here's a good shot of the drone comb - you can see the cells bulge out, look like bullet heads!
I got a kick out of the bees on the frames who still had legs full of pollen. Here's a couple of shots with bright orange pollen legged bees!
Both of these hives were super calm - I barely used any smoke, and didn't have any dive-bombing guard bees harassing me at all. Here's a shot of the frames with some little bee faces lined up looking at me (look in the dark slot along the bottom of the picture).
I got lucky in this hive - I found the queen! I snagged her in the marking cage - here's a crappy picture:
But the important thing is that I was able to mark her, so next time it should be easier to find.
I put honey supers on both of these hives to see if they will fill it (I don't expect any honey the first year, but you never know!).
All is well in Sutton.