Hive Care: Third Week Check-In
Last Friday, Tad and I checked the hive together for the first time. This was my third check-in with our new hive of honeybees. I was excited for this one as I knew that there would be some potential action happening in the hive other than simply looking for eggs! We zipped up our beekeeping suits, pulled on our veils, and headed out to the hive. When we brought our first package of bees home in April that perished, Tad was so excited to put on his outfit and help me put the ladies in their new home. This second hive was not so impressive to him, and for the last two checks he was not having any of it (though I avoided having him help me with the very first check-in because I wanted to do it myself). I was happy that he was interested in being here for the third one as I was feeling comfortable with the hive and with the fact that his little hands might go wandering near the bees.
For the most part, he was quiet and patient. I was really proud of him! We followed all of the same rules that happened during the first check-in, and he watched diligently as I performed the steps. We smoked the hive and cracked it open to reveal what was inside. He asked lots of questions and even ate some burr comb, wax and all, after I scraped it from the edge of the frames. What a champ! I honestly didn't think he'd want to eat it. Too bad it was just false honey within the comb.
In the second week check-in, I had specific things to look for during my inspection. I was surprised to find that everything was going splendidly!
- BROOD PATTERN. This is similar to the first week inspection that I shared a couple of weeks ago. You want to make sure that your queen is laying and being consistent. For example, when looking for eggs laid in the comb, be sure that they are laid within close proximity to each other and not scattered about the frame. One here, three there. While a healthy queen might not fill every single cell, she should fill a majority of them, and these are usually on the lower half. If you spot a cell with two or more eggs in it, this was laid by a worker and will become a drone (male bee).
- FOOD. Ideally, a frame will be constructed with brood on the bottom, a crescent of pollen filled cells above that, and a crescent of nectar at the top. It may not look exactly like this, but there will be a somewhat similar representation. My frames have a lot of scattered pollen, but I have to think that is because pollen sources are low in early June. I am wondering if I should supplement with a pollen cake or not...
My second week check went really well! I spotted the queen for the second time and found that her eggs were both consistent and abundant. It felt good to see everything working out inside of the hive.
During the third week check-in, you are looking for the same types of patterns as in the second week. You want to see if the queen is laying eggs on other frames, how many, and if the bees are making progress on their comb, nectar, and pollen production. So far so good for us! They've filled in the center 4 frames partially and are beginning work on the outer ones, though not much. I'd say we are looking in good shape for the textbook version.
- SUPERSEDURE CELLS. In the third week, you want to check for signs that your hive is pleased with their queen. They may begin creating large, peanut sized cells near the top of the frames to breed a new queen. This happens if the bees believe that the queen you provided them is not working up to their standards. If there are cells similar to this description in the center or bottom of the frames, then these are called swarm cells. These only happen if the bees feel overcrowded and are planning to breed a new queen, divide, and conquer. The only thing to do if you spot three or more of these cells is to order a new queen immediately. You will lose more time and energy in the hive if you let the bees raise a new queen on their own.
- CAPPED BROOD. The larvae that was found in the past two weeks should be going through multiple stages of growth by now. You'll see eggs, larvae, and then capped brood or egg cells that are topped off with wax. This wax will be a different color from that at the top of the frame, which is capped nectar that will eventually become honey. Capped brood is tan in color and turns darker as the baby bees develop. If you notice that the capped brood is laid in a spotty pattern, you may need to look into ordering a new queen. The cells should be compact and tightly packed together.
Once you check for signs that all is well, check the sugar syrup supply. If the bees are still eating through it each week, then provide them with more. You won't stop feeding them syrup until they stop eating it!
So far the checks are fun, but there's not much action happening on my end. I am excited for my check-in tomorrow (unless it rains!) to possibly add the deep hive or prepare myself for it. I will talk more about that in my next post! I hope you are enjoying my beekeeping play-by-plays. I am really loving being able to share a new experience with all of you. I can only talk so much about chickens, you know! Though I can truly talk about them for hours.
If you are looking into getting bees yourself and have a little one, I purchased Tad's bee suit from Dadant.