I've been able to check the hives a few times in May.
On 5/2 I ran out to Sutton to check things out. The worker bees had released the queen, and things were looking fine. She's on this frame - can you spot her?
She's sporting a nice blue spot!
I am feeding with leftover honey (from the dead hives of last year), diluted with water (to better simulate nectar).
On 5/17 I checked out the backyard hives.
Got some nice frames with nectar and pollen gathering:
There was also a nice brood patten going on, but only on a couple of frame:
BUT.... I saw the starts of a supercedure queen cup!
The queens in my backyard hives weren't released by the workers fully, and it was a week when I noticed it and released them manually. So they spent a few more days in the cages than normal. The queen in this hive moved a little slow, so maybe the bees think they need a new one (although the brood pattern looked fine).
Usually I just removed the queen cups, but I left this one alone to see what they would do. I marked the hive with the queen cup with a thumb tack so I'd know where to look next time:
The brown hive is doing a little better than the pink hive. They are doing a good job collecting nectar:
Good brood pattern:
And even evidence of already hatched brood (the center is empty, with pollen and honey at the edges):
They have even capped some honey (some of this might have been left over from last year - I put in some honey frames).
I saw the queen as well! I marked her (she was unmarked in the package). Can you see her:
Interesting thing: I accidentally got some blue paint on her leg, so she has 2 marks! :-)
The next week on 5/27 I checked the backyard hives again.
Lots of bees, which is a good thing! I like to check the activity level when I first open the top cover. You can see a good distribution of bees in between all frames:
Good brood patterns again:
Saw the queen again!
There was brood on most of the frames, which is a sign to add the second brood chamber. I take one frame of brood from the bottom and put it in the middle of the top box, to encourage the bees to move up (the nurse bees will follow the brood).
I wanted to check if they had done anything with that supercedure cell I saw the last week. I checked the frame with the thumbtack, but saw no evidence of any queen cell - no open cell, nothing.
So they tore it down not needing it.
Then I went hunting for the queen. If she is the original queen, she'll have the blue dot on her (another benefit of marking queens - telling if it is a new queen or not). Found her!
But this hive is still not as populous as the brown hive. Still plenty of space to lay, so I am not adding the next super. Here's the hives as they are now:
Interesting observation: I spaced out the hives to plan on a 3rd hive on the left. But when I added the additional super on the brown hive, it added enough weight that the 4x4's started teetering up. So instead of spacing things around more, I added a cinder block on the left side to keep things stable :-)
One addendum: We had the LDS Sister Missionaries over to help my wife work on the garden the next Saturday. Prior to weeding, I suited them up and we went into the pink hive! It was a first for them, and they were a little nervous. But luckily the hive was super gentle, and Sister Gropp was a brave trooper, even holding a frame!
(Sister Rowley, her companion, took this picture) Both missionaries commented on how fun it was, and they learned a lot about bees in the process (I can't resist a teaching opportunity when it arises!)