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:

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 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.