Even though it's almost 10pm and I'm going to practically die when the alarm goes of at o'dark-thirty tomorrow (cold fog and wind predicted, also. Brrr), I had such fun today in the apiary I had to share. Consider it a gift for Ribbit and Erin!
The story out there is that I have five hives -- two were "original," in that I meant to have them. One of those was a swarm I picked up from another person, and then augmented from my original hive, and three are swarms from my two starting hives. I had hoped to have four ongoing hives this year, but there was a total of four or five swarms (I gave some away) and that can wreak havoc on a hive's honey production.
Today I just wanted to see what the state of play was, and maybe add a super or a deep as needed to the smaller hives.
The first one, a two-week old swarm, had bees over about five frames on opening:
And they check out with a laying queen. This is foundationless comb, which I'd like to move to -- it's fresh wax, the bees decide what size to make, and it's easily cleaned up and out when it's old. Plastic foundation is difficult to clean and reuse. But it's sturdy! Inspecting just comb means I can't flip the frame over to look at the other side, but have to turn it like the pages of a book. The bees don't seem to mind, but they do get upset if you break the comb or it falls out. Ask me how I know. . .
Here's a closer look at the transition from worker brood -- see the heater cells in the capped brood? -- to bigger, larvae-filled drone cells. I'm not worried yet that this hive is producing drone brood. It can be a signal that they want to swarm, but these girls have nothing but room. I'm assuming they want to make them to propagate the hive's genetics because it's simply swarm season. It bears watching, though.
This hive is only a week old. This is the bunch of bees that swarmed the day before the chicken coop tour. I'm out of screened bottoms so this hive is sitting on an upturned homemade lid, and they have a teensy opening. Equipment limitation is only one reason to combine hives and shrink the apiary to four hives.
Although they've only had a week to work, this group has filled and capped a deep frame with honey and started drawing some new comb. See how white it is? These paddles will merge and fill the entire frame eventually.
AS I finished with each hive I made notes on the outside about what I was seeing -- was there a queen, did they have room, etc. My memory doesn't last that long -- and five hives is a lot for me to remember which one is exactly which, in terms of behavior. None were terrifically happy today, it was slightly windy and none are really what I'd call at an ideal stage, but this big hive was particularly grumpy.
As was I after tearing it completely apart only to not find any eggs or brood. Could be that it's queenless, which would make my job much easier. Could be that the queen is a newly-mated queen that got left behind last week by the swarm group. I did see two open queen cells. Either way, I have to get back in this hive in a week or so to make certain that they do or do not have a viable queen. Hard to imagine them not -- this is a busy hive. The white box is a new super I set in there as each of the other ones is nearly full. Lifting the top one up was a challenge.
I'm short on mediums right now, so I spent some time after the inspection banging some medium frames together. We'll have to fit them with starter strips or foundation (or a mix, just for experimenting) and get them on that medium sized hive. I don't want to deal with any more swarms!
Swarm box #2 is also two weeks old. Slightly less robust than the other two week old hive, though. Hives, like children and classrooms, seem to have distinct personalities. Just a few bees on the bars when opened.
But I discovered that they also have a viable queen. Lots of room, no hurry to do anything for them. You can see the results in this video. Sorry for the jerky end -- I'm not great as my own videographer. But if you like being a virtual beekeeper, this may work for you.
End result today, if you were keeping track is five hives, four laying queens, zero calm happy bees, but only one testy hive. Lots of honey being stored up by one hive, not much from anyone else. These hives have to be combined down to three, I'm thinking. Better find someone who really needs a queen.