I’ll admit it. I did not think I’d get my first inspection in this early in the season, but today was unseasonably warm and beautiful (mid 60s).
First, my notes:
- Warm (60s), full sun, no wind
- Light smoke. I decided to try do just a hint of smoke, which is a suggestion from Michael Bush. I was much happier with the results. One other thing he suggests is to put the smoker near the hives and rely on the bees acute sense of smell to respond. Interestingly, Michael pointed out that he does not think bees interpret smoke as fire. His thought was that if that were the case, continued smoking would encourage them to leave. And they don’t. He didn’t quite say he did this, but he did mention in one of his articles that he has seen bees that were asphyxiated from being over smoked. I would think that they would leave should that be the case, but they don’t. His thought is that the smoke simply masks pheromones, which seems quite reasonable.
- Calm bees for the most part. I was extra careful not to jar or pop the hive, and the bees responded quite well.
I’ll save the condition of the hive for the pictures.
If you remember, when Hive 2 died, I put a deep full of honey on top of Hive 1 to guarantee survival. So it is into this triple stacked deep hive that I went today expecting to see a small build up in anticipation of spring. I’ve been watching them pull pollen in from the Silver Maples and Willows, so I knew they were active and raring to go, but I was still caught completely off guard….
Here are quite a few bees returning with full pollen sacks. Oh, and can I tell you how much I’m loving Courtney’s new camera? Two things I find fun in this picture:
- The pile o’ bodies beneath the hive. This is mostly Hive 2, but a significant number of the bodies are from Hive 1. If you ever doubt just how many bees are in there, take a gander at that pile.
- Notice the details on the wings! Did I mention how much I like Courtney’s camera? My old camera was nowhere near capable of achieving a shot like this.
Here’s a shot across the top of the honey super. This is the third deep on the hive, and I did not expect to see many bees. Seeing this much activity across the top was a good sign that the bees had done well over the winter.
Just a nice close up. This is the third deep again. On inspection, this deep had not even been touched. It is still ten full frames of honey. When I get my other hives set up, I’ll be giving all five two full frames of honey from this deep, which is a great way to start them off. The best thing about it is that I’ll be able to avoid feeding them that way, which is something I’m feeling more and more strong about. I recognize that feeding must happen at times, but the more I study the PH balance of sugar and honey and realize that the PH for sugar is closer to happy land for varroa and other pests, the more I want a non-fed apiary. They make their own best food; might as well let them have it.
This is a shot across the top of the second box. This was what I assumed to be the cluster because it was compact and spread across the center frames. I have mentioned how much I like Courtney’s camera, right? I’d be utterly disappointed if you didn’t catch that.
Note at the very bottom the honey stores running down the face of that frame. That was very consistent in this second box. They still had ample stores of honey, and the pollen stores were fairly thick as well. Quite pretty.
I found the queen on frame 6 in this hive (counting from the left). She is still the marked beauty from last spring. I’m so pleased with this line that I’ll be splitting the hive in order to continue her genetics. I’m half tempted to try and get multiple queens from this hive in order to re-queen at least three of my hives with this line. That would preserve and guarantee those genetics would continue. She was fast, eager, and looked healthy. Oh… and I love how dark these bees are. Quite beautiful.
And now on to the bottom box…
Okay… This shot was taken only three or four seconds after pulling the top box. They literally poured out of this box. They are confined to the center of the hive, but just look how thick they are! I was amazed at how well this hive came out of the winter. I was half tempted to go ahead and split the hive then and there, but I didn’t. I figure there is at least one or two more good storms in this winter, and if this spring is anything like last year, splitting the hives would have weakened them to the point that they might not have made it.
Back to the queen for a moment…. I pulled several frames out of this lower box, and they were, for the most part, empty of honey and brood but filled with pollen. On a whim, I went back to the second box, found the queen on a frame full of eggs, and switched that frame with an empty frame (no drawn wax even) from the second box. The end was that the queen moved down into the middle of this thick cluster with a frame of eggs AND an empty frame for the bees to draw out and fill. I figured that was an easy way to reverse the supers, but my real concern was to make sure the queen felt like she had plenty of room in there and prevent swarming. I do NOT want to lose this queen.
In the next week or two, I’ll artificially swarm this hive into a split. It’s a touch early, but this hive is so strong and big, and I don’t want to lose it. As is, I’ll be fully supering this hive soon after the split because of how strong it is.
Last but not least, I spent the rest of the afternoon painting the first coat on my three new hives. What color did I choose? Why vibrant blinding yellow, of course. 🙂
I also spoke with my dad, and both of us are at the point of just begging for spring and summer to roll in. We’re ready for beekeeping!