Sue's hive inspection

Here's a cross-post from our Yahoo group.

Sue writes:

Hey fellow beekeepers,

Happy New Year, everyone!

I had been asking around for someone to help wimpy, gimpy me inspect my bees, but then I talked sternly to myself and decided that if I am really going to be a beekeeper, I need to be able to do my hive inspections on my own. So today I geared up and looked at both my hives---well, mostly. Following is what I saw; I welcome any comments or feedback.

I first looked at the newer hive containing the garage-wall cut-out that Erik and Russell and I did in November—the Garage Band hive. It consists of two mediums—with the six frames we cut out, plus four empty, in the bottom super, and all empty frames on top except for two into which I had tied honey comb from the cut-out. The frames in the top super are still empty—they cleaned out the comb but have done nothing with it. The bottom box has filled in a little bit, there is chewed string everywhere, and they've made a little new comb in one empty frame. There is a fair amount of honey and TONS of multicolored pollen, but almost no brood, except several clusters of drone cells. The brood comb we tied in seems to be unchanged (dark, capped, no signs of activity.) Among the drone cells on two of the frames, I found two supercedure cells (mid-frame) which had been opened—that is, they each had a large, irregular opening which looked like something had come out (as opposed to being ready for something to be deposited) and were empty. I thought I saw a queen, but then realized it was one of about 8 or 10 drones crawling around.

My (hopeful) conclusion: we probably didn't get the queen at the cut-out, but the bees are maybe strong enough to have made another queen, who has yet to mate (or show herself to me.) I am encouraged by the amount of pollen and honey that's present, and somewhat worried about the number of drone cells. But I'm not sure there's anything I can do right now except cross my fingers and hope for a new queen sometime soon (before they all die off.)

I thought for a minute that one option might be to steal a frame or two of brood from my big, established Arcadia hive—which has a billion super-active bees, ongoing re-population cycles, and an overpowering smell of honey on warm days—and add it to the small hive. So I smoked 'em like hell and pried open the big hive, which has three boxes tightly glued together with propolis. The top box has six frames of luscious looking honey, and four untouched frames—spaced out alternately, interestingly enough. I went through that box uneventfully, but when I got to the middle box, I was only able to pry out two frames that were absolutely laden with honey—some capped, some not, lots oozing and dripping down—before the bees started going all hostile on me, and I decided to quit while I was ahead (unstung, that is.)

Conclusion: I don't really need to do anything except harvest some of that honey! I don't know if I'll ever make it all the way down to inspect the brood chamber, at least not on my own, but I guess that's OK for now. Questions, though: Do bees get more angry the closer to the brood you get? Or do they just not like having their honey stores disrupted, with gobs of honey dripping on the frames, etc.? With enough smoke in my backyard that I was surprised the fire dept. helicopters weren't circling overhead, I didn't expect the bees to get quite so upset.

Well, it was an exciting day for this old lady. Bees are pretty wonderful, and I can already taste that honey!

-Sue in Echo Park

Kirk responds:

Well done Sue. I would wait a week or so then check the hive with the empty queen cells to see if the queen worked out. I would extract enough honey from the other hive so the bees have enough room to expand the brood nest.

You did good

call any time if you need help or advice