Saturday, April 27, 2013

First Inspection of the Season

Here it is, the end of April, and I am just getting to my first full inspection of the hives. This weather has been so screwy and cold that even in the 60's today, the bees weren't out in force. I figure we are about one month behind in the seasons (i.e. we are now where we should have been on March 27).

I've noticed that the Brown Hive has a lot more activity than the Green Hive, so I expected that the inspections will show the same.

In addition to the inspection, I need to prepare the hives for a new hive stand. Recall back in October last year a tree fell down, and took out my hives and hive stand. I decided not to re-use my wooden hive stand, as it was unstable. I decided to put down some cinder blocks and put a couple of landscape tinders on them.

Here's my hives as they are now, and you can see where I am planning on putting them temporarily.

The cinder blocks are set out in front of the hives currently, about 6 feet away. That is close enough so that there won't be any problems with the bees "getting lost" and not finding their homes. When I do the inspections, I'll break down the hive to the bottom board, and reassemble them on the new stands.

Brown Hive

Popping open the top cover, I saw that the bees had added some wax right up to the vent hole. 

Since I hadn't opened the hive since mid winter, it isn't unusual to see this.

This hive went into winter with a half-full honey super on it, and I took out the queen excluder so the cluster could move up into the super if they wanted. It looks like they did, based on what I saw on the top frames:

A month ago I had put a pollen patty on top of the hive, and added a couple of jars of sugar syrup. Both the syrup and the patties were gone - consumed.

I did this inspection starting at the bottom, so I set the super aside, and looked at the top brood chamber. Again, a good number of bees!

When I got down to the bottom board, I expected it to be covered with dead bees (over the winter, some bees inevitably die). I was surprised at how few bees there were - you can see just a small grouping toward the center of the bottom board (I use screened bottom boards):

The fewer bees that die, the more there are to bring me honey! :-)

The very bottom brood chamber didn't have anything but some pollen in it, so it wasn't interesting.

In the top brood chamber, I found a lot of capped brood - good!

The brood was in a half-circle shape, which means the other half was in the honey super.

I also found a lot of pollen in the upper chamber. Very pretty!

And I was very surprised to see a full frame of honey! This was probably left over from the winter, and the bees hadn't consumed it.

In the upper honey super, I saw the other half of the brood. The queen was laying well.

The frame in the center looked different:

The cells in the center were empty. This is actually good - that was a generation of bees which had recently been born, and the cells are now ready for the queen to lay.

EXCEPT... I really do not want the queen to lay in the honey super! One thing I wanted to do was find the queen, and put her below a queen excluder that I would put under this honey super. That way the bees would be born out of the cells in the honey super, and then the bees will (hopefully!) fill the super with honey.

And, of course, the queen didn't cooperate with me. Try as I might, I couldn't find her. So when I reassembled the hive, I double checked the frames in this honey super, and not finding the queen, *assumed* she would be in the lower chambers, and I went ahead and put the queen excluder in place.

Because there were some drones in the honey super, and drones can't fit through a queen excluder, I needed to provide another way for the drones to leave the super. So I offset the honey super a little like this:

This is a side view, and you can see the honey super shifted a little to the right.The drones (and any other bees, as well) can exit under the edge. There's a small stick sitting on the back to keep out the rain (mostly).

Green Hive

The green hive has a lot fewer bees than the Brown Hive, based on what I see flying.

On this hive too  I had put a pollen patty on top of the hive, and added a couple of jars of sugar syrup last month. When I opened up the top, I found the sugar syrup gone:

But on the top bars about half the pollen patty was still left:

This tells me that the cluster was small (as bees will only consume the pollen directly above the cluster).

When I got down to the bottom board, it was literally covered with dead bees:

This hive had a lot of struggles over the winter.

The frames themselves, while few with brood, didn't look too bad:

Again I looked for the queen, and again I was thwarted! But I didn't have a need to add a queen excluder, and I saw plenty of eggs and larvae, so I wasn't worried.

This hive was very light - almost no honey/nectar was present. So I put on some more jars of sugar syrup, and left them the rest of the pollen patty:

So here's what the hives look like now, in their temporary new location:

I was right that the hives were close enough to the original location that the bees would have no problem finding the hives - I didn't see any bees in the spot where the hives used to be.

Later I will lay out the cinder blocks and set up the new hive stand.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin