Hive Inspection: August 25, 2012

I haven’t been doing all that well with my hive inspection reports, have I? And don’t even get me started on the lack of photos. I admit part of it is that I’m hesitant to bring Courtney’s nice camera out where I’m bound to get it all propolized, but a lot of it is really just the lack of desire to record the photos.

Anyway… on to the report!

Hive 1

Looking good. As always. Also as always, we didn’t spot a single queen. I admit to being frustrated by that, but I also recognize that most of the reason I don’t is because I don’t dig deep enough. As soon as I spot eggs, I’m happy. I don’t really like to dig into the hives unless I need to.

If I remember right, we should get about five to ten frames of honey of this hive, which is great.

Hive 2

Oh how I love this hive. Not only did this hive already provide ten frames of honey, but she is just shy of completely full. Again. Already. We harvested that honey super about six weeks ago I think, and it is already full again, which means the honey super below it is also full. August is normally a slow month it seems, which means the bees may eat some of that honey still, but I would not be surprised to see us pull a full ten frames of honey easily. I do like this queen!

Hive 3

My grand experiment was an outright failure! As you might remember, last time, I moved the hive boxes in both 3 and 5 around to try to get the brood lower and the honey high. Well, we’ve got brood in the top box again. Sigh… I have long resisted going this route, but I may just have to get queen excluders. If nothing else, I might just keep them on hand so that if I see this again, I can throw one on and put a quick stop to the brood. I doubt we get anything out of this hive. 😦 I also wonder how this hive will handle going into winter with the brood spread out like that.

Hive 4

Sigh… The misery continues.

We harvested 2 and 4 at the same time early this summer, and both were just about equal then. When we opened up 4, I was shocked to see that not only were they not as strong as 2 was, but they have nothing… NOTHING… in either honey super. Nothing. As in empty. Not even wax.

We decided we needed to dig quite deep into this hive, and the bees quickly became quite agitated and defensive. Both Mackay and I just assumed that we’d get multiple stings (none for either us!). I did see some brood, but I’d guess the youngest I saw close to 6 or 7 days old. All bad signs. We tried to examine the entire bottom brood box, but by this time the bees were so defensive that we got exactly a single frame out before we called it.

I’m of the opinion that we lost the queen. This queen was my oldest (coming on to her third year), but she had been doing quite well. If she did go (swarm? dead?), I am very hopeful that they’ll be able to repopulate with a new queen soon. I have LOVED this genetic line, with my only complaint being that they are heavy on the propolis. If this hive can get a new queen soon (I’d guess she’d hatch in the next two days given the age of the brood I did see), I think she might have enough time still to get her feet under her and save this hive going into winter. I hope, I hope, I hope.

Hive 5

See Hive 3. Really.

I wish I could get my hands on the queens in 3 and 5. I’d like to knock their heads together.

Assuming both hives survive the winter, I will likely requeen these two just because I don’t care for the queens. Both of them build heavy on the bridge comb, which using our new plastic frames creates tons of problems. They aren’t has heavy on the propolis, but the propolis holds the frames from the lower boxes in those lower boxes when I lift the top boxes. There’s nothing quite like holding a super with extra frames hanging off the bottom of it held on with nothing but bridge comb!

And there you go.

Beekeeping in general has been heavily on my mind these last few weeks. With the business starting up and going well (all things considered), I’ve really started to sit back and look at my motivations. I’m realizing that the real passion is sharing the passion, not the sales, not the honey, not the lip balms. What I like to see is someone’s eyes sparkle when they catch the bug. I think my favorite experiences by far still are those first times I take someone to the hives, find a bee, get it on my hand, and then transfer the bee to their hand. They always have that look of panic at first followed by that, “wow… I’m not dead” moment. That’s just special. And amazing.

I’ll be interested to see the business as it goes forward, but I hope it turns into mentoring more than anything else.

I’ve also been thinking of hives. I like what I have, but I am growing increasingly interested in the Top Bars. They just seem better to me now. For me. I don’t like the weight of the Langstroths. I don’t like the heavy propolis that is hard to work through and having to dig to get frames out. I don’t like that the entire top of the hive is exposed, and I especially don’t like the invasive nature of the inspections. It just doesn’t seem productive to the bees to pull supers off and set them to the side while I work. It’d be like someone taking the top floor off your house to vacuum. Okay, that’s a silly analogy, but I like it!

The Top Bars largely eliminate all of that. A lot of that anyway. The weight is so much less, the exposure is so much less, and the interruption into the hive is so much less. I can even do an inspection by popping open the window. It just seems… better.

I recognize that Top Bars aren’t for everyone, but I’ve worked both now (Langstroths much more extensively than Top Bars, but still…). I think I know which one I like more. I’ve already spoken with several people about selling my hives (boxes, bees, everything) and then using the funds to start over on Top Bars. Yes, it means a lost year of production next year, but I didn’t come in to beekeeping to produce honey. At least that isn’t what I want out of it now.

In the end, I imagine I’ll always hold on to one or two Langstroths just because. But I do see myself transitioning over to Top Bars for the majority of my hives. Oh, and I’d like to get a Warre hive as well.


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