Our goal was to check all six hives and for the most part we did. This was the first time I used the inspection sheets, and it helped to make things go quickly and keep us organized. I also found, when I began thinking about this blog post, I could be more general in my observations because it didn't need to be a clear record of our activities for future reference. (You're thinking, "Whew!")
Here is what we found:
- All of the hives seem to have good stores of honey for the winter. There's a clear difference in the photos from earlier in the season and now: the honey is dark brown.
- We could see bees bringing pollen back to the hive in their "baskets." They have little indentations on the sides of their bodies and use their legs to move the pollen around. For a more detailed explanation and great photos, visit Linda's Bees post on the subject.
- The four hives that already had entrance reducers (photo 2) on them were noticeably calm -- we didn't have to use any smoke except to keep them away from Mark's hand when he was adding the extra nail to the reducer.
- All of the oil traps showed 2-5 dead hive beetles and a couple of larvae. For the most part, we feel our "greener" approach is working.
- Hive 1 has a thriving population, and the queen they grew themselves is performing well. These bees are physically larger than any of our other bees, and dark in color. They were also more aggressive than the other hives, but that is likely due in part to the installation of the entrance reducer which requires a bit of hammering. After all of the drama and worry, they are doing very well!
- Hive 2, with its new queen is doing much better. I spotted her -- what a thrill to find a queen at all, and doubly so to spot her before Mark! She (nicknamed Suzanne Sugarmaker by my sister) is a beauty, with a long golden abdomen and reddish thorax. We pulled one frame and found a nice solid brood pattern (photo 3), so we left them alone.
- Hive 3 continues to avoid the south side of their hive, with 5 frames completely devoid of wax in the top super, and 3 in the bottom. Strange. They've got the next-to-lowest population of any of the hives, and we noticed some supersedure cells along the bottom of one of the frames. Mark said, "we'll let them do what they want to do." They are the only hive we didn't requeen.
- Hive 4 (the BBQ bees): this hive has the lowest population. There was so little wax in the top medium super we removed it so they wouldn't have to keep it warm. They have lots of honey, so hopefully they'll make it through the winter.
- Hive 5 (the Macon bees) are going like gang-busters, with a big population, big honey stores, no queen cells, and a calm temperament.
- Hive 6: always last to be checked, this hive was full of mad bees. They have plenty of honey and plenty of energy, so we closed them up quickly and left them to figure out the entrance reducer we'd added.