So I wasn't sure what to expect. When I got there on Saturday afternoon, I was pleased to see lots of bees. Here are the hives before I started inspecting them:
Notice the left hive - see how the bees are kind of evenly spread out? I watched them, and the bees were performing an act called "washboarding." I took a video of them:
Nobody really knows why they do this - some say it's a cleaning act; others say it's just because they want to be doing something when they hang out on the hive. But it only happens with hives with lots of bees, where many of them have to hang out on the outside.
For the inspections, I decided to start with the right hive (hive #2) since it looked to have the most bees. I wanted to get the more difficult inspection out of the way first.
Sutton Hive #2
I checked the honey super first, not expecting them to have done much. Well, I was pleasantly surprised - they were putting up honey!
The first frame I saw only had honey on the left part of the frame:
It was interesting that the right side of the frame was completely empty! But I saw other frames with some capped honey. I suspect if I give them a few more weeks they will finish things off.
After looking at the top box, and pulling it off, I started the inspection with the bottom-most box. I pulled off the upper brood chamber, and it was heavy! After removing the box, this is what I saw:
Tons of bees! These hives always have a lot more bees than my backyard hives. I think it's because they sit out in the sun vs. my hives which are in the shade a lot of the day. That's the only thing I can see that I do different with the hives.
Inspecting this hive was very hard. There were so many bees, and they didn't like me making hash of their home. They were butting me a lot, and a couple even tried to sting my (gloved) hands (but to be fair, those were ones which may have been caught in my grip).
In the upper chamber, I found at least two frames full of capped honey, like this one:
Note that the picture isn't fuzzy because it is out of focus; that's a bee buzzing in front of the lens.
Also I saw some real good brood patterns:
I didn't see the queen, but I really have a hard time finding the queen in these hives, due to how many bees there are.
Here's the hive after I inspected it - the bees were a tad upset!
Sutton hive #1
This hive was a little calmer, and I saw less honey when I pulled out the first frame:
But the next couple of frames looked better. Here's a frame full of uncapped nectar:
And here's a fully capped one! Yay!
It was interesting to see that the bees had propolized the queen excluder a lot, to the point where there weren't many passages between the brood chamber and the honey super:
Again a good amount of bees in this hive (this is the top brood box):
And a good pattern of brood:
This was the hive that made a mess of brace comb in between the two brood chambers. I noticed as I was trying to lift up a frame in the upper box, that it felt like it was attached on the bottom. So I tilted up the upper brood box (after prying it up from the lower chamber) and this is what I saw:
What you are looking at is a lot of brace comb, built in between the frames of the two boxes. I suspect it's because there is too much space in between the upper and lower frames, that the bees are building comb in that space. The comb had either honey or drones in it. I felt bad that I destroyed some of their work by lifting up the box, but they'll have it repaired in no time. And I didn't scrape it off like I did last time, because you can see it made no difference...
I'll have to pay attention to my backyard hives to see how much space exists between the two brood chambers, and compare it with the Sutton hives. I may need to modify some of the brood boxes to help eliminate this problem.
I didn't spend a lot of time going through this hive - again, the bees were a little testy. But I was satisfied with what I found.
Overall these hives are doing great! I don't know what it is about the hives in this location - maybe there is plenty of forage for the bees to find. But they are thriving here.