And what's what ... black paper plastic covering the inner cover hole? Didn't bother the girls, who chewed right through it. Okay, now I'm convinced that upper entrances can be useful! The old beekeeper who fashioned one into his inner cover? Must've been a pretty smart fella (or fellette).
I decided to lift off the top shallow and see what was underneath it all. In beekeeping, work from the bottom up and re-assemble the hive as you go. Makes sense. Took me a painful year to figure that one out. I knew I'd be using lots of smoke to drive the bees out of those nasty bottom chambers and up into the top super. So before I started, I put a piece of window screen in my smoker to keep any ash and embers from puffing out while I smoked 'em to kingdom come. Worked like a charm, by the way.
What amazed me was that despite the destruction all the vermin and pests had left behind, the honey bees were mining every possible bit of anything useful that might be left down below, and transporting it above. Nothing's wasted in a hive, especially one with all the odds stacked against it, a swarm. Both levels were equally revolting and littered with waste and destruction. I couldn't wait to get spiffy new equipment in place for this swarm! In addition to running an all-shallows hive with an upper entrance, the beekeeper who set up this configuration also used 9 frames in a 10-frame box, including frame spacers in each super.
I removed the boxes and put the old equipment in front so any remaining bees could find their way back to the parent hive. Down went a spiffy, clean screened bottom board, and then the single shallow the bees were in. Time to remove the inner cover and see what was underneath it. Oh my, it was LOADED with bees! Yippee!! I gently removed the extra burr comb they put on the homemade inner cover. Yes, these were gentle bees. Score!
Oh, my, oh my! Thank you, Jesus. After cleaning up the top bars, I gave the girls an additional super with 5 clean and empty drawn shallow combs I had in reserve. That'd give them 50% more space instantly for the queen to lay and convince them that they'll love their new digs in T's Bees Apiary. I decided to save a frame-by-frame inspection for another day or two out. Best to take things one step, and day at a time. Felt right. In 2 seconds the first bee was onto the fresh comb, and in no time at all her sisters followed in earnest.
I was overcome and humbled and amazed as I left them to enjoy a beautiful Saturday. They'd come so far in such a short time. As had my apiary. Thank you, God.
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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