Monday, June 2, 2014

First Inspection of the year : 2014-06-01

Twenty one days since I installed my two packages and I finally opened the hives up to take a look.  I should have done so much sooner but it sure seems like everything needs to be done all at the same time during the late spring.  It is always exciting to dive in and see what the girls have decided to do inside the hive despite the guidance the beekeeper has given them!  Bees don't read beekeeping books to figure out what they are suppose to do  =)

Green Hive:

The one nice thing about the inspections early in the year is that there aren't as many bees as there are during summer.  It makes it much easier to pull frames and move things around when there aren't bees covering everything.  You also don't need to use as much smoke since a few puffs can easily get most of the bees to move.  I was able to pull the first three frames quickly since the bees hadn't even touched them.  They are foundationless frames, so they are completely empty and the bees haven't thought about drawing out new comb on them yet.  I reached frame 4 and I could see the beginning of the honey and pollen storage. 

First inspection of Green Hive

Frame 5 had more pollen and honey and frame 6 was the first brood frame.  Interesting pattern on this frame with bits of pollen scattered among the brood cells.  About a third of the frame (on the right side of the photo) was all drone brood.

Brood frame

A little spotty so far but not something I'm too concerned about at this point.  It can be common in new queens.  I'm happy the queen is raising brood and she is fertile enough to have worker brood.  Next frame over was almost identical with drone on one side and worker brood on the other.  I spotted a queen cup but it was empty.  It is not uncommon to see queen cups.  The bees like to make them just in case they need them.  Frame 8 had some new, white comb drawn by the bees and they were starting to bridge it over into the next frame.  This is one of the struggles of letting the bees build their own comb.  They don't always build it in perfectly straight sections.  I cut some of the comb out and mashed some more together to try and make it straight.  I also swapped frame 9 with 8 in the hopes that they would make the small amount of comb there straight.  The last frame was empty. 

I did not spot the queen and I didn't specifically see any eggs but they seem to be going along pretty well.  As long as I see some new larva during my next inspection, I'll know the queen is still there.

So, besides doing my first inspection on Green Hive, I was also ready to deploy my Smart Hive Arduino system I have been working on.  It was a bit of a pain to run the one sensor through the inner cover without having someone to hold it but I was able to position it between frame 5 and 6.  Now I can only hope the bees don't chew through the wire insulation or decide to build bridge comb all around it and make a mess.  The second sensor goes out the side vent hole to measure the outside temp and humidity.  The third sensor rests near the Arduino in the vent board.

Arduino deployment

I'm looking forward to posting the first data points in my next blog entry!!

White Hive:

 The frames in the White Hive are fully drawn out plastic Honey Super Cell frames.  They fit much tighter in the box than the wooden frames in Green Hive do.  I have a "J-Hook" hive tool and it really helps to pull that first frame out.  A few bees danced across the frame I removed and I began to pull the second frame out.  For some reason, I did a mental double take and picked the first frame back off the ground where I had set it.  My eyes popped open when I realize there was the queen!!!  Running around on the frame with only a handful of other bees there!  Very unusual since the queen usually has a group of bees around her taking care of her needs at all time.  I quickly picked the frame up and hovered it back over the middle of the hive until I saw her walk off the frame and back down into the box.  That could have been bad if she had walked off into the grass or dirt somewhere!

The next two frames were empty like the first but on frame 4 I found the first scattering of brood.

Drone comb on plastic frames

On the bottom of this frame you can see that the bees decided to build some comb off of the bottom of the plastic frame.  Since the bees cannot enlarge the plastic cells, they have to build spots of comb with cells large enough for the queen to lay drones in. The next frame had a little brood on it and some nice colored pollen in the upper the queen I almost squashed earlier!

Hi queenie!
Can you spot the queen the frame?  Starting from the middle bottom, about a third of the way up, just a bit to the right of center she sits in all her glory.  I pulled the next frame and was pleased to see it was solid brood!  A really nice pattern with very few cells still empty.  To my surprise, the next two frames were packed with brood too!  Wow!!  This queen is really a good egg layer.  I pulled frame 9 and it looked almost entirely empty until I held it up with the sun at my back.  When the light revealed the bottom of the cells, they were filled with tiny eggs.  This hive is going to be booming in a short period of time with this queen!

It is looking like a nice start to the 2014 beekeeping season.  The first new bees should start hatching any day now so the currently diminishing population of bees will make a nice turn the other direction building up to the hive's peak population in the summer.

Until the next inspection report, thanks for reading!


  1. Hi Mark - Good looking queen you've got there. It's so nice to see bees! I get my nucs this weekend, I hope] I was interested to see your Arduino things. I'd never heard of it until a week or so ago and my kids said they wanted to take a class at the library this summer. Class starts tomorrow and now I know what Arduino can be used for. I just need to talk them into making a unit like that for my hives.... Good homeschool science project, methinks.

    1. Yes, so far so good Robin! Working the bees the first time sure helps you to forget about winter. Glad to hear the nucs are arriving! Exciting! The one thing dealing with electronics (like Arduino) did for me, is to also make me go back to square one and study up on basic electricity principles. I have a computer science degree, but only one class ever dealt with electronics. If you get into your Arduino project and want more details of how it works or what I did on mine, just let me know. I'm happy to help.