Hive Inspection, May 17, 2014

First a note about my dad’s hives. He has several hives this year, but he has one top bar that is doing very well; packed full and very active. He lost the queen in that hive and replaced her with one he got in the mail, but when he went in today to make sure she was released, he was set up on by dozens of bees. He took fifteen or so stings in his glove (nothing in his skin) and said he had a hundred or so trying to sting him. He fled into the garage, waited 15 minutes, and came back. When he was five feet from the hive, the set upon him again. He spent just enough time at the hive to close it up and flee again.

He talked about how that was spooky. I totally get that. I’ve been in that situation once or twice, and it’s a big turnoff for me. Beekeeping–or as one of my employees calls it, beeing–should be fun! Relaxing. That’s not fun or relaxing.

I had a few thoughts for him, but I’m wondering if any of my fellow beeks have any other thoughts. First, this was his third time in the hive in a single week. The first time he went through every last comb to try and find the queen that he lost, the second was a simple insertion of the queen, and the third was to find the queen and make sure she was free and laying. He went pretty early this morning while a lot of the workers were still at home. We’ve had a lot of rain the last week or so, so I don’t think we’re in a dearth, but they have been cooped up for a while. My thought is that it was the number of visits, but I’d love other ideas. I did ask him if he had a skunk or raccoon scratching around at night, and he said he didn’t think so. No evidence of that anyway.

Anyway… On to my hives!

Top Bar

Last time we were here, the hive had two queen cells. I stole one for Hive 3, and left this one here. Well, she hatched, we found her, and she was gorgeous! Beautiful, all black, long, and healthy looking. This hive is still slowly building up, but I think they’ll do okay. They’ve got a touch of honey stores, new eggs are coming in, and all signs point to success. They have built out only three bars, but are working on the fourth. A very gentle hive.

Hive 1

This was my survivor. I found the queen on the first frame we pulled out (a rich amber color), and she was very fast and strong. Lots of eggs and brood, but the hive itself felt very light. Maybe 25 pounds is all. Made me wonder what was going on. Definitely one to watch and see how things are going.

Hive 2

Doing really well! I didn’t see the queen here, but there was plenty of eggs and brood. She has a truly pretty brood pattern: thick and full with only a few missed spots. This hive might be doing a touch better than Hive 1 at this point, which made me wonder if the queen in Hive 1 is getting old. She’s two now, and while I don’t like to kill off my queens, this may be the end result with that queen. I love her genetics, so I will try to keep that line alive.

Hive 3

Oh Hive 3… What can I say? This hive position has always given me trouble. Back when it was Hive 5, I always had issues getting them to go. It’s still true. I’m trying to figure out what it is, and I’m starting to wonder if it is a heat issue. This hive is closest to the brick wall (painted white), and I wonder if the reflected heat is impacting them.

Anyway, I put in that queen cell two weeks ago, and the little boogers ripped it apart and killed her! To add to the joy, I noticed double eggs in cells, eggs laid on the sides of the cells, a terrible brood pattern, and so much more. Stupid things….

When I was talking to my dad, he asked what you do when you find that you have an egg-laying worker. I told him that you debate between the can of Raid and the flame thrower…. I had a lot of help today, so I decided to shake all the bees out into the weeds near the hives and then drop a frame of eggs in. There weren’t too many nurse bees left; this hive has been queenless now for at least six weeks after all. It was fun to watch the foragers come home to the hive and fill it back up. I took the time while all the comb was out to tear out the drone cells, the eggs, and the drone larvae/pupae that was coming in. The last thing this hive needs is to have to care for a huge population of drones!

I pulled a frame of eggs from Hive 1 as well and dropped that in. I may go back in really fast on Monday and drop a second frame of eggs in. I’m really worried that this hive will run out of bees before it has chance to recover. I’m at least 45 days out from having new bees in this hive, and I’ve already been queenless for at least six weeks. It’s not a recipe for success.

Overall today was a lot of fun. Shiloh helped again, and it’s obvious he’s been doing a lot of studying. Another neighbor–Joseph–also came over to help, and it was fun to show him. He was giddy excited by it all which is one of the things I love about showing people the bees. He wants to come back when we go in later, and I’ll be sure to invite him. Shiloh took two stings (stomach and elbow), but other than that we were sting free despite dumping all the bees out of the hive. It was disappointing to see how bad Hive 3 is doing, but fixing it is part of the fun I’m finding. Actually caring for them.

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3 Responses to Hive Inspection, May 17, 2014

  1. Oh my gosh. I could never do that. I have recurring nightmares about a single bee buzzing in my ear. To have multiple bees? AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

  2. Talking With Bees says:

    Your dad’s hives – hhhmmm. Perhaps just leave them for a couple of weeks and let them get on with whatever they need to get on with?

    You hives – I think we’re on the same page. We seem to be having similar experiences and trying similar techniques.

    I’ve launched some honey labels last week. Not sure if anyone will be interested. I’ll find out. Have to try these things.

    • daveloveless says:

      I like the labels! Nice design, and fun personal touches. If I were trying to sell, I’d love to look at some designs. I’ve decided to just keep most of it for my family and give it away as gifts.

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