Thursday, August 21, 2014

Checking the Hives

A warm sunny day gave us the opportunity to check on the bee hives.

The first hive has two supers without a queen excluder, and the queen has been busy laying lots of new babies throughout the hive:
There is very little stored honey, as the bees have been feeding thousands of larvae. This photo shows a little stored honey around the top edge (the pale yellow cells), lots of capped brood (the darker yellow cells), and some larvae almost ready to be capped (the whitish cells towards the bottom). The dark cells in the centre are where baby bees have already emerged, and most of them have a new small larva developing in the bottom of the cell. There are lots of bees on the frame, caring for the larvae.

It wasn't warm enough today to pull the whole hive apart, but I suspect there could be some queen cells somewhere in this hive, and these bees are getting ready to swarm in spring. Today we added an empty third super above a queen excluder, to give them some honey storage space. Will that stop them swarming?

The second hive is very different. This one has a queen-excluder between the first and second super, which means the queen can only lay eggs in the bottom half of the hive. Contrast this frame from above the excluder with that from the first hive:
This one is full of honey. There are few bees on it because there isn't much for them to do once the honey cell is full and capped. The whole top super was pretty full of stored honey. We removed four full frames and replaced them with empty ones, and also added a third super with eight empty frames. So this hive now has lots of available storage space for honey. Will they want to swarm, or will they be happy filling up the hive again?

What happens to these two hives over the next few weeks will be interesting, and could influence how we set the bees up for future winters.

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