April 28, 2017
It has been about a week since we caught our first swarm and installed our first package. We have been waiting, very patiently, to crack open these hives to see what our ladies have been up to. The weather at our apiary has been pretty poor during the week, but we finally caught a good break on Friday - 80 degrees and sunny.
On this first inspection, we wanted to simply check on the health of our hives. We wanted to see if the hives were healthy and strong by observing the following:
- Have the bees been building comb on the frames?
- How much space are they utilizing?
- Is the queen present and is she laying eggs?
- Have they started storing pollen, nectar and are they beginning to cure honey?
- Are there any noticeable pests, issues with the hive hardware or the colony itself?
In addition to the above, in order to keep our ladies happy and healthy, it is important to not be disruptive during our inspection. Generally, a typical hive inspection should be about 10-15 minutes, per hive. To further minimize disruption, it is best to check hives on bright sunny days that are warm, not windy, and during the 11-2pm time frame. This is because most of the foraging bees are out of the hive during this time so the hives are less populated, and easier to manage.
So, with our hive tools in hand, the smoker on, and veils on tight, we set out to inspect our first hive...
Hive A - Packaged Italian HoneyBees
When we installed our package last week, we were a bit nervous that it was going to be a weak hive. So, to help them along, we put a jar of sugar water (1:1 ratio) in a mason jar with a perforated top, on the top hive body. This helped give the bees some much needed energy to build their comb and the forage for food.
When we cracked open Hive A, we were delighted to find that they were doing well! They were concentrated on the right side of the hive, the side where the hive entrance is, and had started to build out comb. They powered through the sugar water so we refilled it for them. To help them spread to the rest of the hive, we switched the entrance to open on the empty side of the hive. We were very lucky to find the queen and see that she was busy laying eggs in the newly built comb. If all goes well, new workers will emerge in about 21 days.
For now, since the hive is so small, we decided to let them be and will check back around Tuesday, weather permitting, when we should expect to see uncapped larva.
Hive B - Swarm Bees
We were most excited to check out Hive B, our swarm hive. When we captured the swarm last week it was about 10,000 bees strong. After a reorganization of the hive last week, since we spotted the queen outside of the hive, we were a bit nervous to find out if our queen survived. However, over the past week, we did have a lot of positive vibes going into the check since Kyle was posting photos all week of the bees busy at work, bringing back pollen and foraging.
Last week, we fed them sugar water just like with Hive A. We had an empty super with a mason jar in it (the same as the first photo of Hive A's inspection above) and when we first opened the hive cover, we noticed that there were bees coming out of the inner cover hole. This means either the bees have used up all their space, and it's time to put on a new super, or that they've built comb on the bottom of the inner cover. Boy, did they build a ton of comb in one week! It was beautiful, it was probably the best comb we've ever seen, no one does comb like these bees (read in Trump's voice).
What we found was a ton of comb, many of which were established with eggs. That is a great find because they're building and the queen is alive and laying eggs, but kind of a problem for us when it comes to managing the hive. The thing is, bees always build upwards; they keep their brood on the bottom of hives and the honey stores up top. Wherever the brood is, the space below it does not get used. So, if you have brood on a top super, and they don't use the supers below it, then they could feel like they are running out of space and may swarm again. So we had to remove the comb and rearrange the hive to encourage them to build their brood chamber in the bottom super.
After removing the comb, and placing the rest of the bees back in the hive, we stored the comb for later product making (think candles, lip balm, or anything that uses beeswax!).
This hive, beyond question, is very strong. We are very excited to see how they grow and produce. We hope some of that strong work ethic transfers to our budding Hive A.
So, What's Next?
Over the next few weeks we will continue to check the hives, manage the brood frames and make sure they are taking full advantage of spring. In a few weeks, we will check for mites with the sugar shake (more to come on this!), and install queen excluders - which help keep the queen, but not workers, in the bottom of the hive.
In May, Kyle is taking a Queen Rearing course at Delaware Valley University. From this we hope to raise a few queens and then sell them as packaged bees to other new beekeepers. Additionally, Kyle will be assisting Dr. Vince Aloyo in a 3 day Introductory Beekeeping course in July during the summer session. Sign up for it! The rest of the brothers will be there. If you do, let DelVal know that Brothers In Bees sent you!
Keep it buzzed,
Brothers In Bees