I finally had the magical combination of cooperating weather + enough time = able to really get under the hood with both of my hives on Saturday. Photos are all courtesy of Richard, using a long lens on a digital Canon Rebel SLR.
I told a friend at work today that I worked the hives over the weekend. I said a few bees had gotten squished during the inspection, and they always had to clean up my messes after I’d closed the hive back up. I said it was a good thing they were such tidy housekeepers. My friend asked, really, bees keep a clean house? That led to more questions, and mind you, this is my friend who is very, very afraid of bees. I’d say it’s almost a bee phobia. I like that she’s still open-minded and asking questions, though, even though they terrify her. It got me thinking about how I got interested in bees. I certainly wasn’t a fan of stinging insects when I was younger. How many people are (whose parents aren’t beekeepers), after all?
My fascination with honey bees began in 2004, when I read the first fictional book I’d read in a very long time, Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Secret Life of Bees”. At the beginning of each chapter is a snippet about bees from a non-fiction source. Those snippets captivated me. Secret life indeed! After reading through that book, I bought a non-fiction book on bees. And another, and another. I devoured them all, eager to learn about this society, this sophisticated culture of individuals that works together toward a common goal, with not a single spare thought for self. It awes me, and stills the constant chatter within me, when I sit out by the hives in the evening. Now, onto the beekeeping.
On Saturday afternoon, I opened up my new hive first, and inspected. I found the queen quite easily. She’s doing a wonderful job, with a full even laying pattern and honey around the edges. I named her Queen Hazel. Hazel was the name of the strong, kind, and resourceful Chief Rabbit of the Watership Down warren, in Richard Adams’ classic novel “Watership Down”. Watership Down became my everlasting favorite book when I read it for the first time at nine years old. It has remained so. Although the rabbit Hazel was male (bunny drone?), it can obviously be used for both sexes, and it’s such a lovely, old-fashioned name.
When I got the nuc for this hive, two of the brood frames Queen Hazel was laying on were from a deep super, and my garden hive has shallow supers. So we put the empty box on the bottom so the two large frames had room to hang down, as a temporary situation. On Saturday I moved those two large frames to the sides so they could hatch out. Queen Hazel will find her way back to the middle, and I’ll switch out the two large frames with shallows and put the whole top box on the bottom, where a proper brood box belongs. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that within the next 3 weeks or so. By fall it should be a full, strong hive. I will have to get at least one more shallow super on there so they have room to store honey for winter.
After I’d done a thorough inspection of my garden hive, I moved on to inspecting the original hive. The top shallow honey super is almost bare; however, the middle super is FULL of honey. They are very well-positioned for winter as far as food goes. However, the IPM drone comb frame is all drawn out. Chris put that in there a few months ago. I read the other night that you’re supposed to take that out when it’s drawn out and freeze it, then scrape it clean, because it attracts the resident varroa mite population and that’s one way of controlling it. I don’t know if he’s ever done that. If you don’t, it becomes a lovely habitat for varroa mites to gather strength and numbers. Must remember to chat with Chris about that next time. And I STILL haven’t met the queen of that hive!!
So, fellow much-more-experienced beekeeping bloggers, do you see any glaring problems?