One of the important tasks of being a beekeeper vs just having bees is monitoring the bees and the hives. This is done by periodically opening up the hives and peering in to see what the bees are doing. Sometimes the queen has died, or pests (skunks, coons, mice, ants, “and tigers and bears! Oh, my”) have been irritating the bees. Whatever the case, looking in on the bees lets the beekeeper know what they need. It’s kinda like checking on your kids in the middle of the night. Most of the time nothing is needed. Same with the bees. Most check-ups include cleaning up spurious comb (burr and bridge) that bees build throughout the hive, and removing the copious amounts of propolis (bee glue) gunking up everything. At other times, extra food (sugar water or pollen patties) might be needed, or if the bees need more space, extra boxes are added.
At this time of the year, most of the Spring swarming is over and it’s time to start adding honey supers. These are the boxes the bees will use to put up the beekeeper’s honey. This may appear greedy on the beekeepers part, but bees put up more honey than they will ever need. I use 2 deep brood boxes, which allow sufficient room for brood as well as honey and pollen storage for the colony. This is enough room for their food storage. Everything above the second box is the beekeeper’s honey. Here is a frame of honey in the making.
While making checks, it is always important to look for proof that the hive is “Queen Right.” This means an active, laying queen resides in the hive. Most of the time I am only looking for eggs, larva and capped brood, while trying not to squish the queen (she’s usually photo-shy and hides during hive checks). If these are in the hive then the queen is in the hive.
Today, we were able to get a photo of one of the queens. She posed for us. This gives us a great opportunity to show off her regal features. Check her out…
Although she is their mother, she does not look much like her offspring. Her wings are about the same length as the workers’ wings, but her abdomen is much longer. Where the workers’ bodies are fuzzy, she is smooth-bodied, much like a wasp.
All in all, it was a great day in Bartlett and Arlington, TN as well as in rural Fayette County. Honey supers were added to several hives and all hives now have two brood boxes. Three hives have failing queens, but I am letting the bees raise up new queens. Please note the queen cells (peanut shell items) on the foundation in the next photo.