_It was time for my second hive inspection. I work gloveless, as all the books told me, but I smoke my hands for an "invisible" glove approach.
_There's always a loud buzzing until the cover's off and a hush falls over the hive. It's one of the things I love being a new beekeeper, or "beek". Here I was used a Boardman feeder, which is an inverted quart jar at the front of the hive. This Russian nuc (nucleus hive) that I'd bought had a miserable first week. It was unseasonably wet and cold. I was worried when they didn't touch the syrup for 4 days. Once they found the food, though, they started eating half a quart a day. Then a quart a day.
_After 3 quarts in 4 days, it was time to put the 2-gallon top feeder in place. I gave 'em a little bit of smoke to drive them down a bit.
_I removed the Imrie shim, some burr comb and the remnants of a pollen patty I'd given them. I made the patty far too big and put it upside down with the wax paper on top of the top bars. But in week two they not only drank 3 quarts of syrup but had eaten half of the huge patty I'd given them, regardless of how I put it down. The girls were amazingly gentle and quiet as I cleaned up their house.
_And the feeder goes on top jusssssst ... wait a minute. I'd better remove that Imrie shim before putting this down. Can you tell I've never done this before? A true beek at work.Okay, shim removed, top feeder in place, and an empty brood box atop the feeder ensures a tight fit so robber bees from other hives won't get into all of this food. One of my teachers from the Mecklenburg Beekeepers Association's Bee School, Libby Mack, told me to always have extra equipment ready, such as a work box, even if you don't use it often. Because I had one ready to go, putting the top feeder in place was a snap. Then it was time for the syrup. I quickly learned I had far too much of an angle going on with my cinder block stand, as I could only put one gallon of syrup in this two-gallon feeder. Rookie mistake.
_I gave them two-thirds of a gallon of thin syrup and removed the Boardman feeder. My mentor, Richard Flanagan, told me to install an entrance reducer to prevent robbing and help this young hive defend this massive food source in their hive. As soon as I put it in place there was an immediate traffic jam of bees coming and going. The ones coming in with pollen quickly learned they had to wait their turn and enter one at a time.
It was time to go on to the beach for Memorial Day vacation and hope the girls were okay. So far the bees had not touched any of my four frames with Duracomb foundation. It was a gamble because no one I talked to had ever used this foundation. But Richard told me part of the joy of beekeeping is in trying new things and sharing your experience. By the way, look at that beautiful continuous smoke I have going :)
So I returned to find the syrup completely gone. So I gave them another two-thirds gallon. Two days later it was gone, so I fed them another two-thirds gallon which they'd consumed in another three days. In one week they'd consumed two gallons of food. All in all, a very good sign they were building out comb.
_This Saturday my good friend Hernan, who introduced me to the Mecklenburg Beekeepers, came for an inspection. He and his lovely wife, Mercedes, took a tour of our garden while they were here.
_When buying equipment I went with a hatless veil. It's not the greatest veil ever (the screen hits your nose if it's big like mine when you look up ... but you can wear a ball cap underneath it to prevent that), but it definitely is very cool in the hot summer sun. Also my new coveralls beesuit that Yvonne customized allows me to wear skimpy summer clothes underneath. I was pretty cool, all things considered in the 90+ -degree weather. After the garden tour, it was time for bees. Hernan took this photo of me as we began at 10:15 a.m.
_The girls had built out a good amount of comb, including two sides of my Duracomb foundation. I could breathe a little easier knowing they were taking to my foundation of choice. There were still two frames untouched and two sides left open on other frames, so it will be a week or so before I add a second brood box. We spotted the queen and there were three frames completely packed with a dense pattern of capped brood. A fourth frame had a spotty pattern of capped brood but there were lots of brood. The feeding was having a great effect.
Another frame side had newly drawn, deep comb filled with nectar and LOTS of single eggs in the center. There was also some burr comb adjoining the tops of the frames but I left it in place 'cause it wasn't bothering me. Another longtime beekeeper Mr. Bill Bishop had told me that Russians like to build burr comb with oversized cells which they fill with water and fan to create air conditioning inside the hive. So my rule of thumb is that if it's not bothering me or causing a problem for my bees, leave it alone. Or, as Hernan told me yesterday, "Just leave them bee".
I am using a nine-frame spacer to help me evenly arrange the frames back into place. I'm using nine frames in a 10-frame box to give the bees a little extra space, with the theory being that deeper comb will give me a healthier hive with better winter protection. We'll see how that goes. No gloves and no problems on my third gloveless experience. :) Olive was helping. With Hernan's guidance, we leveled off my hive stand so there was only a slight forward angle which allows me to fill the top feeder with two gallons.
_I saw only one capped drone cell this inspection and no queen supercedure cells. AWESOME! All indications are that my bees are happy and have no intention of leaving. For the past week I've been watching my bees come in with a very light colored pollen which had a tinge of yellow. Hernan spotted the likely source. It was a tree in a neighbor's yard which is flowering right now. There are a ton of blossoms and I think this is where they've been feeding lately. I think this is a sourwood tree, the only one I've seen in our neighborhood.
After the inspection, it was time to cool down and visit underneath our apple tree. Yvonne brought out some porch chairs for a Southern sit-down in the shade with some herbal iced tea.
This year it's all about enjoying the bees, helping them build a healthy hive and keeping them strong and happy. So far so good. :)
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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