Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring is Buzzing

I was viewing the beginning of the bee season with a little dread.  My last experience with my bees was less than positive.  In fact, I'll admit, it freaked me out a little.  It was unsettling to have my bees angry with me.  I wanted to be their champion, not their enemy.  The winter break from the bees was a good thing.  It gave me time for the stings to heal and the fear to fade. On the down side, it also gave me time to forget all the good visits I enjoyed with my bees.

I consistently visited my hives over the late fall and winter to view them from the outside.  On all those visits I saw a few lazy bees flying around the hive.  The activity level was low but I was hopeful that the outside activity was not a true picture of the inside activity.  Tapping on my hives produced a deep buzz that promised more life than the lumbering guards indicated.  That sound gave me hope. 

A few weeks ago I made a speedy quick visit to my bees to put supers in place.  I was concerned that the early warm weather and budding trees were going to send my bees into a frenzy and produce a swarm, or two.  I was advised to put supers in place before I installed the queen excluders thus giving the workers time to draw out the wax before I placed an obstacle in their path.  When I opened my hives to add the supers I found two very busy hives.  I did a little happy dance for the healthy hives, put the supers in place and closed the hives.

Today, two and a half weeks later, I opened the hives to put in the queen excluders.  Again, I was hoping for the best.  A hive could easily have swarmed in the time I was gone.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised as I inspected my hives. 

In Hive #1, the super I’d added wasn’t drawn out at all.  Only a few, 25 or less, bees were moving around in the top box.  I removed the top super and began pulling frames in the first deep box.  Those frames were full of honey, some capped and some not.  I didn’t see any brood but the workers looked extremely active.  The first eight frames were really full of honey, most of it capped.  I moved the 10th frame into the sixth space and moved the others to the outside in order to give the bees easier access to an empty frame.  I placed the queen excluder between the deep box and the super and closed the hive.

Hive #2 continued to be the busier hive.  The super that I installed held 100-150 bees.  Again, the wax hadn’t been drawn out but there was more movement.  I removed the super and took a look at each of the frames in the top box.  Each frame was full of honey except the first frame which had a huge hole in the center.  I also found a few drone cells.  This hive had several drones that were easily identifiable.  On several frames, it was challenging to pull the frame because the bees had connected the frame below with the frame above by filling the gap with comb.  Unfortunately, I found several queen cells on the frames.  They didn’t look like swarm cells, there were fewer than ten.

I didn’t pull frames in the bottom box of either hive and I didn’t see the queen or any brood in either hive.  My next inspection should include separating the top boxes from the bottom and inspecting the frames in the bottom boxes.  I’m hoping that I have enough time to get my new hives ready.  I’d love to split my hives and keep all my bees happy and here.

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