Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday's Hive Inspection

While on a Saturday morning walk, we took a peek at the bees. The bees were coming and going from all of the hives, their pollen baskets loaded with bright yellow pollen. Henbit is starting to bloom along the roadsides, and we may have maples blooming, but the pollen surprised us. What we saw inside the hives -- masses of bees on the tops of the frames -- *seemed* to be the common signal that the bees were out of honey and couldn't climb any higher in their search.  In the hives where we'd put a pollen patty, they were covering the supplemental food source. Of special concern was Hive 1, our strongest hive thus far.  If they didn't have any food, we'd lose our top hive to starvation.

We rushed back to the house.  I started cooking up bee tea, Mark stared loading the 4-wheeler with feeders and related equipment, and we grabbed all of the gear we have so our weekend guests, Michael and Michele Rainey, could join in the fun.

Since the weather was so incredibly beautiful (in the mid 70s!), we decided to do full inspections so we could see if we had brood, what the remaining honey and pollen stores were, and to make sure we hadn't gotten any pests.

Hive 4 had eaten one entire candy patty, and the warm weather had turned the second one to a gooey mess. Surprisingly, they had honey and pollen, though few frames had full amounts of drawn comb.  The bees were few in number, but there was some capped brood, and they weren't aggressive. 

Hives 2 & 3, started from the nucs we'd bought, had medium populations.  We saw the queen in both, little to no brood yet (though we didn't inspect every frame), and some full frames of honey, along with pollen stores.Michael and Michele took turns wearing Mark's extra shirt, veil, and gloves so they could see what was going on. They couldn't believe how heavy one frame of honey was.

Then we got to Hive 1.  Mark was working without gloves, and to this point had no problem.  Of course, as I reminded him, Hive 1 is our most aggressive colony, and he had pulled a medium super full of honey, plus about 2 frames on the deep brood box before they started stinging his hands. They appear to have loads of honey, and may be "honey bound" meaning they don't have room to reproduce.  Mark may put a deep super underneath the current set in hopes that they'll expand into the space, avoid swarming, and have room for the queen to lay eggs.  We closed up Hive 1 without inspecting too much, as there was a lot of brace comb sealing the frames together, and Mark's hands were under attack.

We didn't have a camera to take any photos, so here is a photo from a beekeeper in Scotland, who blogs at Border Bees Diary.  This is what our bees looked like.

The bee tea is in the refrigerator, just in case we need to feed in the next week or two.