Well, it feels like it had been forever since I was out to check on the bees. I’ve been pretty busy, but Memorial Day gave me an opportunity to check on them.
Both hives looked busy when I arrived. Hive #2 had more bees at the entrance, but both has a nice amount of traffic. Sine we have now pasted a couple of the nectar flows for the year, I was hoping there might be something to harvest.
First, Hive #1. This hive seemed to be stronger earlier in the year, and I was interested to see what they had done since I checked last. When I opened up the hive, it was clear they had been working. They had build new comb, and were filling it nicely. The comb pictured below is quite thick. They actually curved it and attached it to two top-bars. It pretty much filled the space of those two bars. I want ahead and harvested both this and another top-bar. I simply cut the comb off the bar and placed it in a ziploc storage bag. Probably “simply” is the wrong way to say that. It would have been better as a two person job. I flipped the comb over (with the top-bar sitting on the ground so that I could use both hands. It was still fun cutting the comb loose while holding the bag open and trying to transfer it. I made a little of a mess, but got to test the honey when licking my hands. I’m very lucky the landowner has a hose, or I would have gotten my car very messy on the way home. I ended up with two bags full from the two top-bars I harvested.
I am happy to say, not a single bee died in the sticky mess. I first moved the top-bars to the empty space behind the follower board, and brushed the bees off there. Once the comb was clear of bees, I walked 10 or 15 ft away before trying to harvest the comb. Happily, my bees were as nice as ever. I was in shorts and didn’t use gloves, but got no stings. Even with all the brushing and indecisiveness on my part as to how I should do the harvest, the bees were very calm and never showed much aggression. I’ll go though what I did with those two bags of honeycomb in my next post.
Hive # 2 … This hive seemed a bit weaker earlier in the year, and they show it still. They have honey stored, but no full combs. I didn’t end up taking anything from them. They haven’t built as much new comb either. I started from the back, and when I got to the first brood comb I was a little worried.
If you look closely, you will see that the capped brood in this comb is not flat. Each cell has a rounded top, with kind of a bullet shape. Those are drone cells, not worker cells. I’m not really experienced at this, but this is the largest patch of drone cells I had seen in my hives. If the queen is only laying drones, that won’t help the hive at all (they don’t do any work). It could also be a sign of a problem with the queen. Luckily, as I move forward to the next comb, there was normal worker brood.
The first picture shows some worker brood, but the second one shows some more drone brood. If you look carefully at the second picture, you can see the queen. (the blue dot help)
At least I can see that the queen is still there. It still seems like more drone brood than there should be. In fact, you can see a number of drones in the picture with the queen (the big ones with the big eyes). I hope there are not to many putting a drain on resources, but then again, what do I know. I’m not a bee. Maybe they want that many drone for a good reason. It could also possibly mean the queen is petering out. If she is, I think I will just let nature take its course. The bees should be able to handle it. She may be fine too. I’m hoping that know what they should do. Regardless, the next combs looked good. Nice worker brood.
The empty spots in the middle of the brood comb could be a sign of a couple things. 1) Hygienic behavior (a good thing). There might have been mites or diseased brood there and the bees removed them. 2) The queen missing cells or laying bad eggs that the bees removed (another possible sign of her petering out). I’m not sure this is the case though. I think if you look back, my hive seemed to have had some of this “shotgun” pattern last year too. Again, If there is a problem, I hope the bees know what to do. I’m leaving it up to them and nature for now.
I went ahead and opened the entrances all the way. The screened bottoms are already open. The weather is starting to hit the uncomfortably hot time of year. Summer is definitely in full swing.