Sunday, April 19, 2015

One Week Later

We've patiently waited all week, occasionally filling the feeder with sugar syrup and putting up an electric fence. Yesterday, it was time to open up the hive for our first inspection! Normally, this is the time when a new beekeeper checks on the queen to make sure that she’s been released from the queen cage and that she’s been laying and hasn't absconded or been killed. After the events of the install and the “no candy snafu” we could be relatively certain that our queens were not still in their cages. As far as the other issues, they were still possibilities but we hoped not.
Getting the smoker going.

I decided during the week that the disposable painter’s coveralls weren't really going to work out for me so I took to Amazon and found some real painters coveralls made of cotton then bought one for each of us. They’re a little heavy but they’re reusable and washable, not mention snazzy.

In the morning we made a quick trip to Menards for smoker fuel. By the way, I do not recommend that anyone undertake a trip to Menards on a sunny Saturday! It was a zoo! I know, I know...duh! I should have known better but I needed fuel for the smoker and I had decided that wood pellets, like those used for wood burning furnaces, were going to be it. They are easily transported and if you start to run out of smoke while working the hives they can be dumped  into the spout of the smoker to provide more fuel. Not to mention one, 40 pound bag of pellets is likely to last me a decade! So after suiting up, we lit the smoker and got started.

First order of business was to blow a bit of smoke into the hive entrance, then under the outer cover. After that I blew some smoke down the holes in the feeder. It was a little breezy which didn't really help but I did the best I could. I removed the hive-top feeder and put a towel over it to keep a feeding frenzy from happening. I checked the pollen patty and they had eaten some but it was pretty hard so I removed it. It’s going to be cold in the coming week so I think I’m going to have to mix up some more and put them in the hives because the bees won’t be able to go out to forage.
Taking off the hive-top feeder.
Bees right in the middle where they should be.

The cluster of bees was in the middle and they had built a bit of bur comb where the queen cage used to be. That would have to be removed. I pulled out a few frames to inspect and found some fantastic news! We have eggs! We didn't get any good pictures of the eggs. They’re kind of hard to see but we’ll try again next time. The bees were storing pollen and the sugar syrup in cells nearby. I didn't see any larvae so that means the queen has been laying for 1 to 3 days. After 3 days the eggs hatch into larvae. The first hive was drawing out comb nicely on both sides of 3 frames and it looked like I nice compact laying pattern. One egg in each cell and most of the cells had eggs. I didn't see the queen but with so many bees on each frame, you can imagine why. Not to mention, I don’t really know what I’m doing yet and was a little nervous to have the frames out of the hive. Satisfied that everything was going as planned, I fixed the spacing of the frames with a homemade cardboard spacer. This will, hopefully, keep the bees from building more bur comb between the frames. We’ll find out next time. After fixing the spacing I put the hive back together, filled the feeder  and started on the second hive.

The second hive was the one where the queen cage fell to the bottom during the install. The interesting thing about this hive is that all the bees were way over to the side of the box. Normally bees start in the middle of a hive and work out like the first hive. A’s guess is that because the queen cage had fallen during the install and the queen doesn't fly incredibly well that she walked up the sides of the box and was hanging out at the side of the hive. It sounds like a good theory to me. This is also something that we’d have to fix. We pulled out a handful of empty frames from the side away from the bees so that we’d have some room to work. Then I started pulling out and inspecting some frames. As we moved things around the bees would form “bee chains” between the frames. More good news! More eggs! Again, one egg per cell and a very dense laying pattern. This colony had only build comb on about 2.5 frames but since they were all clumped up on the side, I guess I’m not too surprised. The wall of the hive body was covered with bees too. Thankfully, they weren't building comb on the side of the box. I saw more stored pollen, and sugar syrup. No larvae here either so the next inspection should have eggs and larvae to look at, maybe some capped brood. I didn't see the queen here either, oh well. Again satisfied that things were going well, we started putting things back together. Since the bees really should be in the middle of the box we decided that we’d move the frames of bees towards the middle and insert some of the empty frames on the outside. This will hopefully encourage them to move to the center. We’ll find out next time. I set the spacing of the frames again and then put the hive back together, filling the feeder on the way.
Bees on the side of the box.

Now it was time to work on the fence. We had purchased a taller post for the solar fencer and we had to get everything set up for that which included re-wiring a new jump wire. For those who don’t know, the jump wire is the wire that connects the four levels together and then connects to the charging unit/fencer. We tested out the solar fencer but for some reason, it doesn't seem to be charging the fence. When the battery fencer is hooked up and I hold a blade of grass up to the fence through a bee glove I get a little bit of a zap. No worse than a static shock that you get touching metal things in the winter time. But when I did the same thing with the solar fencer hooked up, I didn't get anything. Not even a little nip. So we still have some things to figure out with the fence. I’m glad A. suggested that we get the battery charger as a back-up while the solar fencer was charging. It’s nice to have something that you know is working while you’re figuring out other things.

Our first inspection down in the books, now we wait for another week as it will be too cold to open the hives for the next several days. It’s nice having a real spring season again rather than the quick switch from winter to summer but I have to admit that I’m anxious for the flowers to come out for the bees. Looking forward to next week when I can open the hives again and look for larvae! Here’s some more pictures of the day, see if you can spot a queen. I don’t know if A. got either one in a picture but if you think you found one drop me a line.

Your friendly beekeeper in her snazzy bee suit working the smoker.

Smoking the hive.

The bees and the partially eaten pollen patty.

Here you can see the bur comb the bees  built where the queen cage was. And sadly,
a bee that I squished last time. :-(

Taking out a frame.

Frame with the bur comb. I removed this before putting it back in the hive.

Close-up of the bur comb.

Arrrr! Spacing the frames.

Shaking some bees off in front of the hive so I can put the cover back on.

Second hive. Bees are all over on the left side of this box..

The foundation is black and the comb the bees make is white.

The bees in the second hive were also making some yellow wax. Here you can see the bright yellow pollen in the yellow wax.

Placing some empty frames on the outside to move the cluster towards the middle of the box.

This is the face A. gets when I'm in the middle of something and he tells me to look up and smile.
Spacing the frames in the second hive.

Working on the fence.

The hives got really active for a little bit about 20 minutes after we were done in the hive. I freaked and called Mr. Smith. He assured me that it was fine as long as the bees weren't wrestling and that they were heading back into the hive.

Our hives and fence. Hopefully we can figure out what's going on with the solar fencer.

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