Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Second Inspection: 2014-06-10

I was very eager to complete this second inspection for a few reasons.  First, I was very eager to retrieve my fist set of Arduino Smart Hive data!  Second, the hives are currently at Installation +30 days (Bee Math) and there should be many more young bees in the hive.  Not only will these bees be nurses for the next generation, but they will also be wax comb builders (Honey Bee Worker Jobs).  So, they should be expanding the nest area and allowing more bees to forage for nectar and pollen.  The increasing number of bees also means they will be running out of space soon.  Normally in nature, the size of the cavity the bees live in does not increase and when they run out of room they swarm.  Part of being a beekeeper is controlling the bee's swarming nature by adding more space (boxes) and I needed to see if it was time to add another box or not.  If your hive does swarm you've lost probably half of your bees and your old queen.  Not a good thing if you actually want any honey.  Plus most of your neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate a swarm of bees landing in their yard!  Well, onto the inspections...

Green Hive:

I opened the lid and found that my ventilation board with my electronics in it was nicely stuck to the top of the lid.  There must have been some propolis left on the underside of the lid and it works really nicely as glue.  I spent a few minutes trying to remove the ventilation form and when I finally removed it, I notice a LARGE, furry black spider resting comfortably on the underside of the lid.  Thankfully I was armed with a steel hive tool and dispatched the menace quickly.  I really dislike spiders but I also know they do eat "bad" insects, so I try to leave them alone when I spot them in the garden.  But when they are around my bees I show now mercy!  I'm sure beekeepers in Arizona, Florida or Australia can get some really nasty surprises around their hives.  Yikes. 

Anyway, after all that drama, I pulled the SD memory card from the Arduino and downloaded the data.  My first disappointment was that it appeared that it only logged about 3 days worth of data.  It appears my 6 AA battery pack didn't last very long at all.  I'll be looking into an alternate power source for sure now.

Arduino Smart Hive data

With that said, it was cool to see that the general data collection does work!  From the data it looks like the external sensor might be a little flaky since the humidity spiked at 100% a number of times and the temperature measured at 103.82 F on June 2, 3:22 PM.  According to the weather report on that day, the highest it hit was 82 F.  Other than that oddity, the data looks consistent.  What I really like seeing are the readings from the brood area.  The temperature reading is a very flat, steady line, right around 95 F.  Despite what the outside temperature is, they do a fantastic job of maintaining the same temperature and humidity levels where the baby bees are being raised.

Pulling the first two frames from the hive, I saw they were still empty.  The third frame in was built much wider because of the empty space next to it.  With the top down view in the photo below, you can see how the wax sticks out past the top bar of frame 3.

Green Hive
Frame 3 was heavy with honey and frame 4 was the first to have brood on it.  Typically the brood nest is toward the middle of the hive so it was no surprise to see frame 5 had a lot of brood on it.  The other side of this frame had a large empty area where all the baby bees had already hatched out of their cells.

Hatched Brood
Frame 6 looked very similar to 5.  Frame 7 was about 50% covered with capped brood and had a large section of new wax drawn out.  Looking closely I could see there were eggs in almost every cell in the new section of wax.

Frame 7
Frame 8 and 9 actually had some large patches of brood on them with an empty queen cup as well.

Queen Cup
Thankfully there wasn't anything in the cup so it doesn't look like they are preparing to swarm or replace the queen.  The last frame hadn't really been touched by the bees since the last inspection.  So in total there are still 3 empty frames in Green Hive.  Looks like I'll be ready to add another box during my next inspection.  They are coming along nicely!

White Hive:

The first thing I noticed after removing the inner cover of White Hive was that I could see bees looking up from between almost every frame!  This hive in increasing in numbers more quickly than Green Hive for sure.

Looking into White Hive
The bees had stored quite a bit of nectar and pollen and the brood nest started a few frames in.  The queen in this hive knows how to lay some eggs!  Look at the photo below.  This frame is wall to wall brood with very few empty cells.  They will be bursting at the seems very soon.  I will need to add a second box for sure next week!

Lots of future bees
You can also see the patch of drone brood that was built along the bottom of this frame.  And speaking of drones, I was able to witness one being born.  Very cool!  You can watch the 30 second video here:

The last thing I did before concluding the inspection, was to change the entrance reducers on both hives from the small opening to the medium sized opening.  The population should be steadily increasing now on both hives so they should have no trouble defending a larger entrance.  This will also help alleviate any congestion as the foragers come and go all day long.

Looks like I have a lot to prepare for the next inspection.  New boxes to add and hopefully another way to power my Arduino.  So, until then thanks for reading!


  1. There is nothing quite so wonderful as a box full of bees. My goal this year is to raise full hives.

    Thanks for the tip on the batteries for the arduino. I'm interested to see what power source you come up with that will work long term.

    1. You betcha Robin! My goal after adding the second deeps is to buy a queen with more winter hardy genetics and start a nuc. I've read some about overwintering nucs as well so maybe I'll be trying that as well. I've looked at some of the solar solutions and I'm also looking into some of the rechargeable battery packs for cell phones. We shall see!