Spring Hive Check

It’s difficult for me to write a blog post that doesn’t involve some statement such as “this is why I love bees!”  Before I started raising bees, I never would have thought that a peak into the hive could be so fascinating. I want to just sit and watch them. In fact, yesterday I was (and also snapping pictures) when my husband was like, “help me out here, it’s a little too cold to have the hive opened up for so long!!” thus breaking me out of my bee-induced daydream!

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The temp was in the 50’s, but it was quite windy. Our hives are in the sun and the bees were flying, so we knew it was okay to check the hive, but we didn’t want it open too long because of the young brood (that we were hoping to find).

The purpose of today’s check was to make sure the queen has been accepted and is laying in our two new hives. We installed the packages a little over two weeks ago and yesterday was the first day that the perfect trifecta was met: it was warm, it was sunny, and we had time! So we went in looking for the following: proof of activity (comb-building, pollen collection) and proof of a successful queen (brood, aka bee babies!).

When we installed the packages, we left the sugar water in the hives because, even though he put some honey in the hive (from our winter dead outs) and even though a few dandelions were just sprouting, we didn’t want to take any chances! In just two short weeks, the bees have surrounded these sugar water containers with beautiful new comb. Sadly we have to cut it out to keep some order in the hive, but it’s cool to look at:

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This extra, unnecessary comb is called burr comb.  Here are some more examples:

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Sometimes they build it at the bottom of the frames:

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This all needs to be scraped off:

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So, we’ve cleaned things up. The next thing we check for is evidence of nectar and pollen collection.  Pollen collection is easy to spot when you sit still and look closely. Take this bee in the picture below, for example, do you see the little yellow pollen sac on its leg? That’s proof that this gal has been out collecting pollen and has returned home and would like to get to work just as soon as these dumb humans get out of the way!

 

You can see the pollen sac on the left side of her body.

You can see the pollen sac on the left side of her body.

Apparently I didn’t get any pictures of nectar cells. That’s probably because my husband said, “hurry up, lady!” (ok, he doesn’t really talk to me that way), but I did get this great picture of a bee depositing nectar into a cell. See her little butt sticking out in the upper right hand corner? I think they are so cute when they are doing this!

Depositing nectar

Depositing nectar

The last thing we want to look for is evidence that the queen is laying eggs.  Brood cells are cells that have been capped, or closed off (so that the little buggers can grow inside).  You can see the yellow-capped brood chambers to the right of the bees (if those darn bees would get out of the way, I could take way better pictures!):

The capped yellow cells contain brood.

The capped yellow cells contain brood.

We opened one of these up, just to make sure, and there was a little larvae in there, just growing away. You can see the little white, worm-like creature just right-of-center in this picture (someone needs to teach me how to add circles and arrows, so I can better point these things out to you!)

Open brood chamber, just right of center under that bee butt!

Open brood chamber, just right of center under that bee butt!

Extreme close-up:

Opened brood chamber

Opened brood chamber

And there you go! With that, the first hive-check of the spring is complete! We were happy to see the queens were laying in both hives and the workers were busy bringing in pollen and nectar!

And as my last public service announcement, leave those dandelions alone! They are the bees first food source for the bees before everything else begins blooming!

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