Yesterday I was able to go and inspect both hives in the morning. It was going to be a hot day (93 degrees F or so), so I started at about 8am. Luckely, the hive are also somewhat in the shade and that helps me stay a little cooler.
Both hives have been without any feed (sugar syrup) for probably about 1-1.5 weeks. Since I don’t think there is much blooming right now, I went ahead and brought some. I want them to build up now so that when the future flows come, they are able to take advantage of them.
I started with the inspection of hive #1. They are clearly increasing in numbers. When I opened the hive, there were noticeably more bees. There were still only 7 top-bars with comb, but they are good sized combs. The bees not only are covering the combs, there are also lots on the inside of the hive body (on the walls). Even though there are more bees, and more start flying while I was inspecting, they were still calm and not aggressive. The increased population does change a few things though.
There was a good bit of capped brood, and the bees now have brood in all of the combs (before comb 1 and 7 didn’t have brood, just pollen and nectar). With more bees and more on the combs, they are always crawling on my hands. I had to shake them off after handling each comb. They weren’t trying to sting me, but did seem to be checking me out (they were checking me out with their tongues). The larger problem with more bees came when I tried to close everything up. With a lot more bees sticking their heads up between the bars, it was hard to get them pushed back together. I spent more time trying to close the hive than I id inspecting it. I actually used my smoker for the first time to try to get them to back down into the hive. I also tried moving them out of the way with my hive tools. In the end, I pissed them off a lot more trying to close the hive than anything else. I annoyed them enough to get my first sting for my girls. I got stung on the pad of my right middle finger. It only hurt for 30-60 sec and didn’t bother me too much. Its worse today since it has swollen a little (not to much). It doesn’t hurt now, but the swelling makes the skin tight and it itches.
There was one other first for me while inspecting hive #1. On top-bar #3, I found a queen cell. I don’t think it has been used yet, and may not even be fully built yet. As far as I can tell, its empty. I didn’t spot the queen in the hive, but I didn’t look to hard either. I did see young larva, but didn’t look for eggs (they are hard to see). I don’t think they are thinking of swarming (they aren’t that strong yet, and have plenty of space). I will have to watch it and see if they are thinking of superseding the queen. Whatever the case, I left the cell alone. I figure the bees probably know what they should do better than me.
The inspection of hive #2 was uneventful. It seems roughly similar in strength to hive #1. They have started a tiny new comb on top-bar #8, but also have a few combs that seem a little smaller than hive #1.
I also fully opened up the entrances to both of the hive. Both seem to be reasonably strong and I have seen no sign yet of robbing.
Edit – I forgot to mention that I didn’t see any sign of small hive beetles. In addition, I posted the pictures of the “queen cell” on the BeeSource forums(they have a nice picture forum that is fun to read). It was pointed out there that I have queen cups, not yet queen cells. Bees often make them just in case. It doesn’t mean they will use them any time soon (or at all).