Hive Care: Fifth Week Check-In
Hello, friends! I am literally writing this post only a couple of hours after my last check in. My blogging schedule has been a little thrown off this summer, but that's good. That means we are just really busy farming and doing life. Life is pretty sweet right now!
This makes our latest hive check at the fifth week... When things are beginning to get more lively! Literally! There are thousands of bees being born each week now in our hive, and if you are on the same week as us, hopefully in your's too. Last week (week four) I suited up and looked through the frames. I had to make the decision of whether or not to put on the next deep hive body. They had begun building comb on 7 of the frames in the lower deep, and the weather was getting hot. There was really very little chance that our hive would get too cold, something you have to be careful of before putting on a new box. I plopped it on and hoped that when I came back this week I would find even more activity. To my luck, I did!
Being a good beekeeper means keeping excellent track of all that you do each check-in and carefully timing out any decisions that you make. You only have so much time to spend with your bees each season!
You can see above that my colony began building some "burr comb" or "cross comb" at the bottom of this lower deep frame. As much as I hate removing it, I decided to scrape this off so that they did not fill the entire bottom gap with comb. Why do you need to do this? I already made the mistake of leaving the burr comb on the top half of the frames last week, and I was having a really hard time getting the upper deep frames out of the box because everything was stuck together. If you don't remove that excess comb, then you'll just have a larger issue with checks down the road. This is also a subject of controversy with beekeepers, because some believe that disrupting the burr comb and even having any foundation is unnatural to the bees. This year, as I've said before, I am just going strictly by the book and I may branch out with any new hives in following seasons.
During the Fourth and Fifth Week check-ins, there are a few new things to look for but mostly you are still looking for the same things: signs of the queen (good laying pattern and new eggs), brood at different stages (larvae, eggs, pupae), health of the colony (no concave caps on brood cells), pollen, nectar, and even the queen herself. I saw all of these things, though I have not seen our queen in the last two checks... I know she is still around because there are new eggs in abundance!
Some new things to look for:
SUPERSEDURE CELLS/SWARM CELLS: I talked about this in our last hive care check, but be sure to look out for any signs that your bees are unhappy with the current queen's performance. This is done by looking for little peanut shaped cells at either the top of the frames (supersedure) or at the bottom of the frame (swarm). You don't want to lose half of your hive!
HOW MANY FRAMES ARE FILLED: If your lower deep box has 7 of the 10 frames filled, then your bees are ready for an apartment upgrade. This is when you place the second deep hive body on top, filled with 10 frames. The bees will begin laying brood in this box over summer, and it will turn into honey storage for food overwintering. This is the bees' food! Technically the honey super, which will go on next, is the beekeeper's honey... But I think that the first super should always be left behind, especially in your first years. They might need it!
Be sure to watch carefully and plan ahead when it comes to putting the second deep hive body on. If you put it on too early, then the bees may become too cold with the extra ventilation. If you put it on too late, then the bees may run of room and swarm.
BEE EMERGENCE: Have you been watching the capped brood? This is the dark tan comb, where the baby bees are being grown. You may see a little head poking out of one or two - this is a bee birth! It is such a fun thing to watch. Definitely stop and look for this!
MORE VENTILATION: We are in the beginnings of a hot, hot summer. The days are in the high 80s and 90s, which is pretty normal for Iowa... in late July/August! We've been pretty blessed this year, though, with rain every 5-7 days. It's been so nice! Today was the first day that I watered our crops in almost two months. The bees need more air circulation in the hive during intense heat, and by the fifth week they are a large enough colony to protect themselves against robbers. Turn the entrance reducer to the next slot, which should be about 4 inches.
MANIPULATION FRAMES: You may notice that some of the outer frames in the boxes are being drawn out with comb but only very little. You can help encourage the bees to fill out these frames fully by switching out their positions within the hive. Stick a frame that has comb beginnings on it near the brood nest (the fully filled out comb in the center. Do not break up the brood nest as it could really throw everyone off as the brood needs to be temperature regulated.
CHECKING THE NEW DEEP HIVE BODY: If you placed the upper deep hive body on, then you might be wondering how to do your regular weekly check-in. This is pretty easy! Take the outer cover and top feeder off like normal. Then go through the upper deep frames as you would the lower deep. Check for comb, eggs, possible honey and pollen. Then remove the upper deep body, place it on top of the top feeder, and check the lower deep hive body as normal. Easy!
Didn't Jill do an awesome job with these photos? Part of me cannot believe these photos are of our hive and not some dream photo on Pinterest. This farm life is really happening! I am in awe.
How is your hive doing this summer, or are you dreaming of having one?