Bee log, stardate 00001

After checking the honey yesterday, we found that ALL the frames in the top box were full. We have three boxes on each hive. We have 2 hives, which makes it easier to see if what one hive is doing is “normal” or not. The uppermost box contains 9 frames where the bees store honey, the middle and lower boxes are most likely full of frames of capped honey and brood – the cells where the queen lays eggs.

Inspecting the hive, we found the bees were starting to build comb in odd places. So, today, we quickly put another box of frames on top each of the hives. According to the books, we were supposed to put the second super on when the first was 1/3 to 1/2 full. A super is the box that holds frames specifically for honey, adding a super is called “supering” – and that’s what we did today. We are lucky our bees didn’t start feeling all crowded and swarm.

Here’s a look at Hive 2 (a.k.a. Erin’s hive, the shaded, calm hive)

In 2 weeks, I plan to check on the status of the newly added supers and I want to fully examine the whole hive, which I don’t think has been done since Kevin started beekeeping in early May. Of course, I don’t REALLY know as I only got totally interested after seeing the honey. Yes, yesterday.

Specifically, I want to find out:

Are the bees happy with the queen?
If the bees are unhappy with their queen, they start to build supersedure cells – peanut looking cells that are an indication that the colony is staging a coup. The bees create these cells to replace an old or ailing queen.

Are the bees happy in our hive?
One way to judge overall happiness is to determine if they are thinking about leaving. Checking for swarm cells – like supersedure cells these cells also look like peanut shells – but they are generally located along the bottom of a frame. If we find 8 or more, it’s fairly clear that the colony intends to swarm.

Do the baby bees look healthy?
By checking the brood cells – the cells in which the queen has laid eggs – we should be able to tell if the hive as a whole is healthy. There should be plenty of brood cells, the early stage cells are uncapped and you can see larvae, the later stage cells are capped. The pattern should be uniform in spacing and color.

And, of course, it will also help determine how much honey we can take for ourselves once the extractor arrives. We have to leave about 60 pounds per hive for them to be able to survive the winter. Right now, I’d estimate that we have twice that in each hive but I’ve been known to be off on my estimates. Often. And by a lot.

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