Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quick Peek: 12-03-2012

We have started the month of December with a veritable HEAT WAVE here in Michigan!  It was about 60 degrees on Monday and today it is suppose to be 50.  So I figured it would be a good time to check on White Hive without chilling the bees.  Since I know the only surplus food the bees have is the honey super that has 9 empty frames and 1 frame of honey.  My plan was to remove the super so they didn't have all that extra space to heat during the winter.  I put on my veil, grabbed my hive tool and a small zip lock bag with some honey in it to feed back to the bees.  I cracked the top open and the girls were instantly PISSED!  I had two fly out onto my veil as soon as I lifted the lid.  Once I opened the inner cover I had about four more flying around my head.  Dang!  I have never had them come after me that way before.  The last time I opened the hive it was much colder so maybe that motivated them to stay put.  I also did not use any smoke.....kinda thought I wouldn't need to, they have always been calm before.  Hmmm, hope nothing else is going on.  Anyway, I checked the 90% empty honey super and there were quite a few bees sitting on the one honey frame, so my plan to remove the box went out the window.  Guess I'll come back when it gets colder and hopefully they won't be in there.  I put the inner cover back on, laid my zip lock bag of honey next to the hole in the cover and cut a few holes in the bag and squeezed a bit of the honey out to ring the dinner bell for them  =).  The outer cover went back on and it was all closed up.  I pulled the sticky boards on both hives to see how many mites had dropped and there weren't as many as I'd seen previously but there were a few.  I wonder if grooming habits increase when the bees are more tightly clustered? 

Sorry, no pictures this time.  I did have my camera with me during the inspection, but I ended up being a bit stressed by their reaction and wanted to close them up ASAP!  I'll check on them again around the new year probably.  Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Honey Harvest 2012!! 09-16-2012

I wasn't sure this day was going to come (at least not this year) but we did have a honey harvest this year!!  Green Hive produced enough of a surplus that I felt comfortable stealing it from the bees.  The reason bees make honey is so they have something to eat during the long cold Winter months.  This gives them the energy they need to flex their wing muscles and generate enough heat to keep warm.  Bees do not hibernate, rather they huddle together to keep warm waiting for the first sources of food to emerge in the Spring.  Typically their first sources of food are Dandelions for nectar and Maple and Willow trees for pollen.  So don't kill those Dandelions in your yard!!  =)

Here is what is typically involved in getting the honey:
Solid Honey

Step One: Remove The Bees
Hey bees!  Look at those flowers over there! <<steals honey before they notice>>  Since my ninja
suit is at the cleaners, I decided to try a different method.  First I removed a honey frame and checked to make sure it was 80-90% capped. 
That's a good one!
Nectar becomes honey only after the bees have reduced the moisture content of the nectar to below 18%.  Then they seal the cell with a thin wax cap to
prevent the honey from absorbing any additional moisture.  If you take uncapped honey, you run the risk of elevating the moisture level in the honey to the point where it can actually ferment.  Not good eats!  Next I held a solid grip on the frame and then jerked it quickly downward.  This dislodged most of the bees clinging to the frame.  I then followed up with the bee brush to remove the remaining bees.  Lastly, I brought the frame to an empty hive body, placed it inside and then covered it with a bed sheet to prevent the bees from going back onto the honey frames (which they really want to do). 
Not ready yet
 With my friend Keith helping, we quickly got into a rhythm.  He would pry apart the frames.  I would pick them up, shake and brush the bees off them and hand the frame off.  Keith would walk the frame over to the empty box and cover it up.  Rinse and repeat 10 times!  As you can see, this is a bit labor intensive because you have to touch each frame in the box.  Since I had only one box, it was no big deal.  If you had 10 boxes.......

Here are a few other methods I have read about:
Fume Board - You put a special felt lined board soaked in "bee repellent" on top of your hive.  The smell drives the bees down into the hive and out of the honey supers.  Wait five minutes and remove the now empty honey super.  Seems like this would work well but I didn't want to risk having the chemicals in my hive (even briefly). 

Escape Board - This is a special box that has a one-way wire mesh maze built into it.  When the bees navigate their way out, they cannot find their way back in.  You put this underneath your honey super and after a few days there are no more bees in the honey super.  I might buy some of these and give them a try next year. 

Bees shaken off the frames onto this box
Leaf Blower - Just like it sounds.  You take the honey super off the hive, set it on it's side and then blast it with the leaf blower expelling the bees from the box.  Seems like this would really piss the bees off and maybe injure a number of them as well.  Not to mention, I don't think I have a long enough extension cord to reach my hives!

Step Two: Uncap the honey frames
I bought a special "cold knife" made to cut the wax cappings off.  It is a long serrated blade that you lay onto the frame and saw back and forth removing the caps.  They also make a "hot knife" which is the same blade but with a heating element in it.  It melts and cuts at the same time and also costs $100.  Did I mention I'm cheap??  The cold knife worked fine but as the knife became more and more sticky with honey and wax, it became more tedious since you needed to clean the knife every few minutes.  Again, with only one box of frames it wasn't that big of a deal but if I have a few more boxes to do next year, I may have to spring for the hot knife. By the way, there is no way short of a biohazard suit that you can do this job without being covered in honey!!  It is hard not to get a taste of honey when your hands are covered in it!

Cutting the caps

One side done

Step Three: Extract the honey
If you spin the frames fast enough, the honey flies right out of them.  My friend Keith is a world renowned master tinkerer, so he decided to try his hands at building an extractor.  With some slight sizing adjustments, it worked perfectly!  Using a hand drill, we spun each set of frames for a few minutes, flipped them over spun them again and they were done.  I'm still very impressed at how nicely and easily it worked.  AND I didn't have to pay $300-$400+ for a commercial extractor!
Spin!  Spin!
Step Four: Bottle the honey
With all the honey removed from the frames, we poured the honey through a 600 micron filter that sits on the top of the bottling bucket.  The bucket has a special honey gate built into the bottom so that it is easy to start and stop the honey flow as you fill the bottles.  We let the honey filter and settle over night and began bottling the next day.  I controlled the honey gate and my wife told me when to start and stop.  We had our 12 oz jars processed lickety split.
Into the filter
Step Five: Labeling and packaging
My wife and I worked on designing a label and I think it turned out very well.  She really likes the name of the blog so we decided to call the honey "Martin's BEEginnings".  I also wanted some text on the label about how to reliquefy honey if it crystalizes and some text about not feeding honey to infants under one year of age.  Finally, we put the net weight, year and a scripture on the label.  Proverbs 16:24 - Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.  To finish off the jars, I bought some labels from Dadant that you put on the lid.  They say "How do you know if it is real honey if you don't know the beekeeper?".  No Chinese funny honey here folks!  My wife added her finishing touch with a ribbon and a little bee charm.  Ain't they purty?!?!

Followup and Winter Prep:
After the extraction was complete, I placed the "wet" frames back on the hive for the bees to clean up.  They eagerly licked up any residual honey that was not extracted and moved it back into their hive.  Since I only extracted 9 out of the 10 frames in the box (the last one was only partially capped) I had to decide what to do with frame #10.  Green Hive has another super almost filled with honey, so I'm not too worried about them.  So, I checked White Hive and I was horrified to see that the honey super I placed there had not been touched.  The bees have drawn no wax and stored no honey in it!  In a Northern climate it is recommended to have two deep boxes PLUS a super of honey to make it through the Winter.  These bees have no super and I have no idea how much is stored up in the deep boxes.  So, I took the unextracted frame from Green Hive and swapped it with an empty frame in White Hive.  Hopefully they will take the honey.  If they haven't removed it within a week or so, I think I will place it above the inner cover and maybe scratch open the cells.  This should provoke the bees to remove the honey.  At this point in the year I don't think they have a chance of filling the empty honey super so I think I will just remove that empty box and hope they can survive with the stores they currently have.

As a final bit of Winter prep, I placed mouse guards on the hives.  When it gets cold mice like to move into the heated apartment in the yard called a beehive.  The mouse guard is a strip of metal that has holes large enough for the bees to get through, but a mouse can't get through or chew through.
Mouse Guard
As always, thanks for reading and questions are always welcome!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hive Inspection: 08-21-2012


Let us all bow our heads in silent prayer as we fondly remember the Top Bar Hive.  It was a good hive, filled with the expectant hope of new life and a bountiful harvest.  Alas, it twas not to be.  Let us not focus on how it died, but on how it lived.  <end sermon>

Well, as you can surmise, the TBH is kaput.  Deceased.  Passed on.  Gone to join the choir invisible.  Pushin up the Daisies.  It is an EX-TBH.  Sorry, bad mimicry of Monty Python's dead parrot sketch.  Anyway, I'm not 100% certain on the prelude to its demise, but something happened to weaken the hive and that allowed a bunch of wasps of various sorts to raid the hive, killing most of the defenders and the queen.

So, lets look on the bright siiiiide of life <whistle>:
  • The bees were "free", since they were won at the Spring MBA conference.
  • They added to the learning experience of the beekeepers
  • I was able to purchase and apply a disease test kit for both American Foulbrood and European Foulbrood which both came up negative  <whew!>
  • Since the bees will no longer be needing their honey, it was liberated

Opening the Foulbrood test kit

Removing a dead bee larvae

Test results.  If a line shows under the "T" it is postitive

Green Hive:

Thankfully, this hive is still going bonkers.  The bees have only barely started to draw out the wax on the second honey super I added, so at this point in the year I won't be expecting to harvest anything from this super.  Anything the bees store here before Winter, they will keep.

The first honey super I placed on this hive has almost every frame 80-90% of glorious honey capped!!  I was ecstatic to see this!  I have heard that you don't often get a harvest during your first year but it appears I will at least get a little bit from this hive!  Not really sure how much honey to expect from one super but I ordered two cases (12 each) of 9oz glass Hex Jars.  I guess if I fill them all I can always use Mason jars or some other container.

Lots of capped honey
I have also been surprised at the vast amounts of propolis the bees on this hive seem to make.  I guess I'm not familiar with the different varieties of honey bees, but the ones I have seem to make a lot!

Lots of sticky propolis

White Hive:

I am still surprised at how hot it can get in a bee suit even when the temperature is "only" in the 70s.  Since at this point in my inspection I had sweated off most of my body weight, I made this one quick.  My friend Keith was also helping me and I'm sure he appreciated the expedited inspection.  I pulled a few frames finding the first still empty of comb, but the next two were increasingly built up.  Frame 9 had about 50% comb and Frame 8 had about 80% and Frame 7 had about 95%.......and the Queen!  I've gotten fairly decent at spotting her finally!  Can you see her in the photo?

White Queen
After a short debate we decided we might as well add a honey super.  I don't really expect them to do much with it at this point in the year so any honey they store will be for the bees to eat over the Winter.

Wow, I can't believe we are hitting September at the end of this week.  Fall is quickly approaching, as is the close of my first year of beekeeping.  What a ride!

As always, thanks for reading...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

07-31-2012: Quick Inspection

I haven't had the time, help or ambition to attempt fixing all the cross comb that I discovered during the last inspection of Green Hive, but I thought I would at least give them all a quick peek.  I also needed to remove the feeder from the Top Bar Hive.  Well, nothing is ever as easy as you think it will be!


Upon removing the first few bars from the TBH I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see no real progress in comb building.  There were not many bees present, although the feeder was empty.  I picked up the empty jar and this is what I discovered.

Oh crap.  I instantly thought I discovered why the hive was so weak, Small Hive Beetles!  Well, come to find out after a little research, these are NOT SHB.  These are common "Sap Beetles" or "Picnic Beetles".  They are drawn to rotting fruit or fermenting liquids.  In this case, it was the sugar syrup from the feeder.

Sadly, after dodging one bullet, I was struck with another.  I removed a few more bars to open the hive up and I noticed quite a few yellow jackets and other types of wasps flying around my hive tool and inside the hive.  As I looked deeper into the hive I saw a lot of wasps and few bees.  I worked my way up to the front of the hive to see signs of a recent battle.

You can see many corpses littering the floor of the hive near the entrance.  The hive floor was also very wet looking.  After crushing a few wasps with my hive tool, I noticed that most of critters sticking their heads into the cells were wasps, helping themselves to the undefended honey.  This hive was being robbed.  Crap.  I did the only thing I could think of at the time.  I plugged up most of the entrance holes so that the remaining bees might have a chance to defend the hive.

There were so many wasps flying around, I did not proceed to inspect the last few frames.  So, I don't know if the queen is dead or not.  Not sure what to do at this point.  I don't think much can be done to save this hive since it is so late in the year.  Especially not knowing if the hive had any sort of brood disease that weakened them in the first place.  I had not spotted any eggs either so there is no chance of them raising their own queen.  Not good.

I ordered an American Foulbrood and a European Foulbrood test kit from Dadant and the results of those tests will likely determine if I need to burn the hive (with AFB) or attempt to save the hive in some manner if the tests come back negative.

Green Hive:

This hive is going bonkers.  I wanted to just take a quick look to see if they had made any progress on the medium super I added during the last inspection and a FULL box of bees were looking up at me when I opened the lid!  I did not pull the frames but seeing bees looking up from between EVERY frame gave me a great boost after the TBH.  I wasn't prepared for this and I had to run back into the pole barn to grab another super!  Two honey supers on now and I'm thinking I have a chance of taking some honey from this hive this year!

I finished this hive by placing some bottle caps onto the top cover to prop it up a bit.  This is suppose to allow for additional ventilation in the hive.  I really should have done this back in July when the weather was in the high 90's but I kept forgetting.

I also keep forgetting to remove the entrance reducer.  It is now stuck down really well with propolis and I have four heavy boxes piled on top if it!  Hmmm, maybe I can take it off during the NEXT inspection.  If I don't forget again  =)

White Hive:

Although this hive is behind Green Hive, I am pleased with their progress.  It looks like they have drawn out about 50% of the new box I put on during the last inspection.  I am not expecting to harvest any honey from this hive this year.  I'll end this report with a nice close up of the bees.  Smile girls!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bee Garden

Last year, as I began my preparations for my journey into beekeeping, I started construction of a "Bee Garden".  It would house the hives, provide a nice source of nearby nectar and pollen for the bees, as well as a beautiful visage for the beekeepers.  I put a lot of planning into the heights of the flowers as well as when the flowers would bloom so that there would always be something in bloom during the year.  Well, finally I can see the results of my efforts and here are some gratuitous pics to go along with the results.  You can compare them against the original plans I posted back in December 2011. 

I'd say I was pretty darn close to what I planned.  Although, in hindsight, there were some things I would have changed.

Lessons Learned:
  • Instead of 30 x 30, I should have gone 20 x 20 because I cannot reach the center of either side without stepping into the garden
  • Don't buy the biggest and nicest looking Butterfly Bushes that have flowers already on them from the nursery.  They are pampered in there and won't be ready for the harsh realities of a windy garden area
  • Put the weed cloth and mulch down before planting.  The bees don't like it when you try and weed right next to the hives
  • Don't put a bird bath water supply in between the two hives.  This leaves no room to work the hives.  (It has since been moved to my vegetable garden)
  • And lastly, it might have been a better idea to build a flower garden near the house, rather than way out where the bees are.  I came across an article that mentioned how placing food or water sources too close to the hives might not allow the forager bees to communicate a distance that is so short.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

07-10-2012: Triple Disaster Strikes

After having pretty decent success for a first time beekeeper, I have finally run into problems.  Lots of problems.  Maybe even major problems.  Ugh.

Top Bar Hive:

My friend Keith and I opened up the Top Bar Hive (TBH) and noticed that the bees really hadn't built up any more comb in almost four weeks.  From the outside they seemed fine but on the inside was a different story.  After looking at the first few combs things seemed good.  There were honey and pollen stores and the bees moved calmly over the combs.  Then I started noticing this (see the red circles)
Lots of dead larva.  Black larva.  Very spotty brood.  Lots of empty cells that appeared to have no eggs in them.  Perforated cell cappings.  Not good.  Well, maybe since it has been VERY hot lately, it has caused a lot of the brood to die and the workers are still in the process of clearing the dead out??  Lets look at the next frame

More of the same.  A few healthy looking larva here and there but more of the same evidence as before.  I am a little familiar with some of the brood diseases but now I really need to know what is going on.  American Foulbrood?  European Foulbrood?  Sacbrood?  Or just me overreacting?  Crud.  Anyone have any experience with this?

The last sign of bad news on this hive was when I checked top bar #1, the one closest to the entrance.  Notice anything?

Count the number of drones on this comb.  Holy smokes you almost can't see any workers!!!  Is that because most of the drones like to hang our near the entrance?  By the way, we did spot the queen on comb #2, so maybe they just like to be near her too?  Sure seems like a TON of drones.  So if having some brood disease wasn't enough, now I have a drone laying queen or even a laying worker???  Awesome.

White Hive:

This hive has been running behind Green Hive for a while now.  But as of late, it has appeared that the population was catching up (at least from the outside).  So, upon opening the hive I was happy to see many bees covering all the frames

As I mentioned, I had been worried about the progress of this hive since it seemed way behind the Green hive and during the last inspection I had found the last four frames completely empty.  Thankfully this was not the case this time.  I inspected each frame finding nice stores of pollen, honey and nectar.
I was not expecting this monster frame of almost SOLID honey!  I should have known just from the weight of the frame and I pulled it out.  You wouldn't think it would be so heavy but when you are trying to lift it by the two small tabs at the end and trying not to squish any bees, these frames can really pack on the pounds!  Now that the bees were covering all the frames, I added the second box.  I took two frames of brood from the lower box and moved them up into the new box and replaced those frames with new foundationless frames.  Of course this wouldn't be a "Triple Disaster" if I didn't find another problem!  There was a bit of brood comb built onto the bottom of these frames and to make them fit into the new box I had to remove the comb.  It was a bit gross as I scraped it off with my hive tool and a whitish liquid ran out (sorry baby bees).  Since I now had a piece of comb where all the brood would die, I decided to open the comb to see what was in there (in the name of science of course).  Well, this is what I found

If you look closely, I have circled in red two small brownish red dots.  Those are the now infamous Varroa mites.   GRRRRRR!  I have heard that "everyone" now has Varroa mites in their hives but I held the false hope that mine would not be among them!  Now I have to track down my recent issue of "American Bee Journal" and re-read the article about doing powdered sugar shakes on the bees.  This is a technique that does two things: The powdered sugar loosens the mite's grip on the bees causing them to fall off and in the process of the mite falling off, you can count them to see how bad the infestation is.  Guess I'll be planning on doing that in the near future.  LAME!

Green Hive:

If two issues weren't bad enough, here comes number three!

Two weeks ago I was excited to add the second box to this hive.  It was bursting with bees and there was always a lot of activity at the entrance.  Last time I checked, there was no new comb built on the empty frames.  I was kicking myself for not bringing up a few existing brood frames into the new box to encourage the bees to expand there.  Well, two more weeks have gone bone and now it looks like they are making some progress.  You can see the comb, right?  The dripping honey from the ruptured cells is just one of the casualties of an inspection.  One frame out, lets check the rest...

What the heck is this?!?!?  Holy smokes they decided the build the comb PERPENDICULAR to the frames!!!  No!  You can see in this photo there are two frames side by side and the comb is bridging from one over to the next.  Nicely wrapped around my support wires of course.  AHHH!  Seriously, what am I suppose to do with this now?  To my surprise, the bees have almost filled the entire box in two weeks!  Should I go in like King Kong and just destroy all the comb simply so I can have straight comb??  I guess this is one of the dangers of using foundationless frames.

Well, at least there is one frame in here that is "mostly" straight.  Good grief.  After my hands were running with honey and being flustered after my findings in the other two hives, I just gave up and decided to just close up the box.  At this point the bees were just going nuts from all the honey being all over the place.  Funny thing is that in the mad rush of pulling these frames and putting them back in, I don't recall seeing any brood in these frames.  I think they were solid nectar/honey.  So, would you just let me "bee" and just chalk it up to experience?  Or would you rip it all out, brush the bees off and make them start all over again?

Sigh.  Anyway, with so much honey in this box and the bees having built on almost all the new frames, I decided to put a honey super on.  Thankfully it has FOUNDATION in the frames!

Thanks again for reading and please leave a comment if you have any thoughts about the issues I'm having!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Second Hive Inspection: 05-22-2012

B+33 Days and counting...

Weather Report:
65 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze

As the hives are now well past the 21 days it takes for a newly laid egg to develop into a new bee, I am expecting to see quite a bit of population build up during this inspection.  Up until recently, the population would have been slowly decreasing as the original bees that came in the packages were dying off, either of old age or other causes.  Assuming that my queens are laying a lot of eggs, I hope to see more worker bees.

Inspection Report:
White Hive:

I popped open the lid of the white hive after giving it a few puffs of smoke and I noticed that I really needed to pry the lid up.  The bees have been collecting propolis and applying it liberally!  Propolis is a resinous substance that bees collect from the sap of various types of trees.  They typically use it as a type of "bee glue".  If they find a crack anywhere in the hive they can seal it up with propolis.  It also has antibacterial properties and helps to keep the inside of the hive sterile.  In some cases, the bees can even use it to cage up unwanted pests in the hive.  If you look around the outside edges of the hive box, you can see the yellowish, waxy, sticky propolis.

As I began to inspect the frames, I also had to make more of an effort to pry them apart as they had also been stuck together.  The bees are currently covering about four out of ten frames.  I spotted lots of capped honey, pollen and brood.  I was hoping to see more bees in this hive and more capped brood but maybe the queen is still a bit skeptical laying eggs in these plastic frames.

Speaking of the queen, I spotted her!  After no luck seeing her during the last inspection, here she is in all her glory!  Can you spot her in this picture?  She has a long golden abdomen in the upper third of this photo and slightly to the left of center.  It can be a bit of a challenge spotting her (especially since she is not marked).  I'm guessing it will be even more difficult in the future as more and more bees are added to the hive.

Having seen everything I wanted to, I closed up the hive and removed the empty feeder jar.  I think at this point there should be enough natural nectar sources that they no longer need any supplemental feeding.

Green Hive:
This hive is coming along nicely and the bees have built up partial combs on six of the ten frames.

 I'm pleased with their progress and I am especially happy that there appears to be a much more uniform brood pattern on these frames.  As you can see in this photo, they have drawn out about 60% of the frame and it is almost entirely covered in sealed brood.  There are only a few open cells, either where the support wire is or where a bee has already hatched.  Even in the hatched cells the queen has already laid a new egg there!

In this photo you can really see the difference in the area where the bees have already hatched. 
The comb is a darker amber color instead of the golden color of new wax.  The comb will actually continue to darken over time as more and more generations of bees are raised inside those cells.  With each new bee born, it leaves behind a microscopic layer of the cocoon it spun while inside the cell.  The remaining capped brood near the hatched cells will no doubt be hatching in the next few days.

Continuing the inspection, I found two frames that had been connected by comb the bees decided to build between the two frames.
 As I pried them apart, the comb was torn open exposing all the honey that had been stored there.  The bees rapidly formed up along the new trough of honey and began gobbling it up!  They certainly wasted no time in recovering what they had worked so hard to store up!  Thankfully, I noticed this right away and I didn't flip this frame upside down.  Otherwise I would have been covered in honey and the bees would have been all over me  =)

Inspecting the last few frames I was treated to another gift.......the Green Queen has been spotted!

A bit easier to see her in this photo since I am pointing her out.  Looks like she has her head buried into an empty cell to see if she can lay an egg in there.  You can also see in many of the surrounding cells, some mature larva that look like they will be capped any day now.  My gut feeling is that the Green Queen is doing much better than the Black Queen.  The next few weeks should really be telling, especially if the population of Green Hive explodes while the White Hive only slowly increases or stays the same.

As with the White Hive, I completed the inspection and removed the empty feeder jar.

In closing, I was very happy to have spotted both queens.  Both hives appear to be doing well and as I often tell people, "I haven't managed to kill them all yet".

Thanks again for reading, and I'll leave you with this AWESOME picture that my wife took from one of the frames in Green Hive.  It has already become the desktop background on my computer.  I don't know how she captured the light and geometry so perfectly, but she really did a great job.  You can also witness a new bee chewing her way out of her cell here (just to the right of the center of the photo).  This photo really shows the miracle of God's creation!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

First Hive Inspection: 05-08-2012

Weather Report:
High 60's, mostly cloudy and breezy

Finally the weather has cooperated and we were able to do our first inspection.  I swear every time I saw a decent weather forecast and planned on the inspection, the weather would turn to crap hours before!  Grrrrr.

So, why do an inspection anyway?  Well, we are looking for the general health and well being of the colony.  We want to see that the bees are gathering food (nectar and pollen).  We also want to see if they are raising baby bees (eggs, uncapped and capped larva).  The typical stages of a worker bee can be expressed by this simple formula (start at three and double the number): 3 + 6 + 12.  Three days as an egg, six days as a larva (the cell is capped over at nine days) and twelve days as a pupa before the baby bee emerges.  A total of twenty one days from the day the egg is laid until the new bee come out.  We are also checking for any pests, diseases or other problems that may arise.  What did we find?

Inspection Report:
White Hive:
After lighting the smoker and blowing a few puffs of smoke into the front entrance, I cracked open the lid and found that the feeder jar was empty.  I brought the little remaining sugar syrup that I had left and filled it about half way.  Time to make up some more syrup!  I removed the top box holding the feeder jar and blew some more smoke into the hole in the inner cover.  After waiting for a bit for the smoke to take effect, I removed the inner cover which the bees had lightly glued down.  It was a bit sticky but I was able to lift it without using the hive tool to pry it off.  What I found was a bunch of burr comb hanging down!

Looks like they have been busy!  Don't they know they aren't suppose to build comb like that?  =)  Basically bees work within "bee space" or about 3/8 of an inch.  It was discovered that when given more space than 3/8" the bees will fill it with wax comb.  If given less space than 3/8" they will fill in the gap with "bee glue" or otherwise called propolis.  For more information about this interesting phenomenon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langstroth_hive

After scraping this offending comb off of the inner cover, I started pulling the frames and taking a look.  The first five frames were mostly empty with only a few bees hanging out there.

On frame number six I found some stored pollen and nectar!  The nectar looks like glossy pools of water in the cells.  The cells filled with yellow and orange are pollen from different types of flowers.  Very cool!  It is interesting to see how they have outlined the rim of the plastic cells with a small bead of light yellow wax comb.  I am very happy to see this because I have read that sometimes bees will have trouble accepting fully drawn out plastic frames like this.  Glad to see that will not be a problem!

Frame number seven seemed to be more of the same but I'd really like to see some evidence that the queen has started laying eggs.  Frame number eight is looking the same too isn't it?

Can you spot the different kinds of bees in this close up photo?  There are three different kinds of bees.  The queen who lays all the eggs in the hive.  The workers who are all female and make up 90% or more of the total bees in the hive.  And finally the male bees, the drones.  I describe them as unemployed guys who sit on the couch all day drinking beer, yelling at the girls to bring him a sandwich and checking out the hot chicks all day long!  =)  The drones do no work, the female worker bees feed and clean them and the drone serves one purpose.......to mate with a virgin queen.  If the drone is successful, he dies as his insides are ripped out (I'm being polite when I say "insides").  If a drone fails to mate, and survives into the fall, he is eventually kicked out of the hive by his sisters to starve, freeze to death or get eaten by another critter.  Bummer.

On to frame nine....finally there they are!  Larva in the cells!  They look like shiny little grubs shaped like the letter "C" right in the middle of the frame.  I also see what might be drone brood.  Since a drone is physically larger than a worker bee, the cell that they are raised in has an enlarged, dome shaped cap on it that protrudes from the frame.  Because of this they are sometimes called "bullet brood".  Spot any drones yet?  The key is the eyes.  Since the drone depends on his eyesight to spot a flying queen, his eyes cover almost his entire head.

Finally, frame number ten.  Wow, they sure built some weird looking comb on this frame.  A large section of comb protruding with tunnels underneath it!  After looking at this frame and the one next to it, I can see that this frame is warped away from the neighboring frame causing extra space there.  And bees fill extra space with comb!  I might have thought about removing this comb but I see lots of eggs in it and I really don't want to loose all those baby bees.  They really have everything in this weird comb!  Brightly colored pollen, glistening nectar, larva, capped larva (pupa) and if you really zoom in,

you can see tiny things that look like grains of rice.  Those are eggs the queen has laid.  Since we know that an egg changes after three days into a larva, we know that the queen was at this spot sometime in the last few days.  It would be nice to spot the queen, but this is the next best thing.  I'm wondering if the bees were in the process of capping a few of those cells of larva, or if I somehow tore them open by accident.  The edges of the cells look a bit ragged and I'm not quite experienced enough to be able to distinguish some of these subtle differences.

I find it really beautiful all the many different colors of pollen they have stored on the left hand side of this frame.  Orange, yellow and almost a white color.  Which flowers are providing all this color?!

Green Hive:
Sadly the camera battery died just as we were closing up the white hive, so have no pictures of the inspection on green hive!  =(  The top feeder was empty when I opened it up but I counted almost thirty dead (drowned) bees in the feeder and mold had started to grown on the floats.  I am not happy with this feeder.  I decided it is coming off and I will replace it with an inverted jar feeder just like on the white hive.  The inverted jar is much easier to maintain and doesn't drown any bees.  I have the foundationless frames on this hive and the bees had comb drawn on four of the ten frames.  About 3/4, 1/2, 1/2, and 1/4 of those four frames were filled with comb.  I found it very difficult to see what was in the cells of those frames.  I did spot lots of nectar but there were so many bees covering the comb that I couldn't tell for sure if I saw capped honey or capped brood.  How do you other beekeepers get your bees to move out of the way so you can see this stuff?  Do you brush them off or use your fingers to move them aside?

All in all I was very happy to see that the bees were drawing out comb, storing pollen and nectar and making more bees!  I would have liked to have spotted the queens but I was happy spotting eggs in the white hive.  I'm hoping that in my next inspection that I will have a better technique and a camera with a fully charged battery!

Until next time, thanks for reading.