_Lots of good drone on this frame, in a tight pattern. As the season progresses, this'll hatch out and I'm hopeful they'll fill the empty frame in the super with honey. I'm not using an excluder. I believe in not restricting the queen's movements. If she needs room, I'll give it to her. I was jazzed to see they still hadn't finished drawing this to the bottom and she'd been laying up a storm.
_Also, the small cells in natural comb make a big difference in keeping the Varroa Destructor mites at bay. They can't reproduce as quickly or as often in the smaller cells. Chemical-free, baby! And happier bees, naturally.
_The cells will be capped on day 9 and then they'll emerge a day or 3 later. I put in this empty frame just 15 days ago on March 11. IT'S WORKING! The empty frames are being drawn super fast and then queen is laying. Since the larvae has been there for up to a week, that means they drew this one out PRONTO in a matter of days, putting lots of nurses to work, with the queen happily laying in the opened-up brood nest.
All hell broke loose when I tried to move the bottom brood box off the slatted rack I'd made. The rack AND bottom board all came up with the hive body; they'd already propolized it in just a week. I slowly returned the hive body, rack and bottom board to its place on the hive stand, apologized to a lot of kamakaze guards hitting me, took deep breaths, pried everything loose and finally separated the brood box from the slatted rack. I got stung through my gloves once, and then again on my right ankle. Then another on my ankle. And then another. It was time to tighten up that boot band! I really need to get some taller boots. I was pleased that I remained calm. I collected my 5th sting of the year, all through protective clothing. _Then I put on the extra Imrie shim I made from my brother's free cedar wood (thanks, Dan, I want more!) so that the slatted rack has a proper 2 inches of extra space for the bees to hang out on, between the bottom of the frames and the bottom board. This also opens up the bottoms for the queen to lay in. The drafts from outside and congested traffic from foragers coming and going on the bottom board will convince the queen to not lay along the bottom of the frames. The slatted rack gives her extra space as well and diverts a lot of nurse bees. So in addition to harvesting the honey frame, I also opened up Natasha a bit with the slatted rack. Just like IPM, I'm thinking a combination approach to swarm prevention is key. Fingers crossed, knock on rough-cut wood!
__You can see my work box in the background. You need at least one of these for your inspections. You won't regret it. I also put an extra outer cover in my wagon, which has a little shelf on it. The extra outer cover goes down just a bit in the wagon, making a second wagon shelf. I can fit two hive bodies on my wagon. And, since it's close to waist height it really saves my back. For the first time I'm not killing my back working the bees. Thanks to Gerry Mack for this tip. It really works (that and using your legs to lift).
This latest honey frame was put in last summer. It was a foundation frame and also wasn't completely drawn on both sides. I'd lifted up one foundationless frame from the brood box to find it mostly drawn out in two weeks. I am now convinced that the bees draw out foundation slower than making their own comb. I am definitely switching over bit by bit to foundationless. I'll use the harvested frames for backups and bait hives, and probably cut a few out and melt down the wax for candles. All in all a very successful inspection and past couple of weeks. I think an early spring honey harvest isn't that far away. I'm quite excited! Next up, more sugar dusting and I've got to check out those nucs in a week, about the 23rd day after the split, to see if queens have hatched, matured, mated and are laying. Then I'll have them for backups, or an apiary increase, or for selling.
_I spent some time taking out some of the slats, since I run 9 frames in a 10-frame deep. I want the mites they pick off to fall down and out of the hive, not onto the slatted rack and back into the hive. Natasha had no swarm cells in my inspection this past weekend, but I felt like it was only a matter of time, seeing so many bees bearding up on her doorstep each day. It was time for ventillation control.
_EMERGENCY BULLETIN: This just in. Look at the bottom center-point of this frame. It's a half-built swarm cell! How did I miss this on my inspection? It's another reason I photograph and blog, so I can review my mistakes (hoping I, and others, learn along the way). I'll have to check this out and see if they're just making these for the fun of it, or if there are others in the hive capped or about to be. Dang it, Boris, please don't swarm on me!!!
_And look at my two nucs. So far they're doing well I see foragers coming and going every day. This past week I was putting some water in the little dish two feet in front of the nucs. As I was squatting and pouring the water, enjoying the calm around the hives, I noticed several orientation flights going on around the first nuc. And then I saw her: THE VIRGIN QUEEN IN FLIGHT, making her orientation. She hovered, then landed on the landing board (see, they're not useless, they're nice). Then she hovered and landed again a few more times. I said a prayer and felt truly blessed to have seen what I consider a miracle, for some small but for me HUGE. I actually got to see a queen in flight. She was twice the length of the other bees, and her black patch on her thorax was super big. I was so thankful to be there ust at the exact moment she happened to be making one of her flights. Then OFF she corkscrewed and zipped past my head. I said some more prayers that she will return safely after successful orientation and then mating flights. Seeing her in flight put all of my worries and stresses of work behind me and gave me a fresh perspective on life.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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