Saturday, June 27, 2009

Adding the Honey Super Week 4

Saturday it was time for a hive inspection. It would be my second inspection since setting up 2 hives 4 weeks ago.

I'm finding that I don't need much smoke. The bees are for the most part ignoring me. They're just too busy to be bothered with me.
Nevertheless, I always light the smoker and have it there just in case. I've done enough reading where beekeepers advise they didn't light their smoker and then found the bees were upset or they needed to be more invasive and they didn't have it ready to go.
Besides, there is someone that needs the smoke--Me! Why? Because I'm getting stung like crazy out there in the swamp. But it's not bee stings that's the problem. It's mosquitoes.
During the inspections, I am holding frames full of bees and they are ignoring me. Then I'll feel a stinging sensation on my fingers and look down, and there is a mosquito dining on my blood. They seem to really like my fingers. Mind you the rest of me is covered. I where a veil and an extra large long sleeved men's shirt with an apron (the pockets come in handy).
The other problem is that the mosquitoes can sting right through my shirt.
Mom said that when she was young and they went raspberry picking back at the bush they would put newspaper up their sleeves to stop the mosquitoes from stinging them. Maybe I'll try it. I certainly don't want to use any kind of repellent or spray. ANY SUGGESTIONS from beekeepers out there?? What works for you? I smoke myself with the smoker as much as I can to try to cover my scent.
The inspection went very well. My new frames and foundation are fully drawn and 7 of the ten frames were bursting with brood - capped and uncapped larvae. It was a really exciting and proud moment to see the frames I put together so lovingly covered in comb and brood.
I left the 10th frame in place and removed frame 9. Frame 9 was drawn comb with nectar in the cells only. On frame 8, there was the queen and many bees. The comb was drawn and only nectar in the cells - no brood or eggs.
Frame #7 was very heavy. Even before I pulled it out I knew it was loaded. The top part of the frame was covered in capped honey and the center had a really nice pattern of capped and uncapped brood.
I've read that the rule of thumb for when to add the honey super is when 7 of the 10 frames are fulled with brood and eggs. So I added a Queen Excluder--the metal frame that sits on top of the brood box which prevents the queen from going into the honey box and laying eggs--and then I put my pink honey box (called a honey super) on top.
Additional Comment: Since this post a beekeeper with many years experience advised to not put on the queen excluder initially. The bees don't like to go through it and could swarm instead. So his advice is to at first leave it out until they get filling it up with honey. The queen might go up there and lay a few eggs but she'll stop once they take it over with honey. Then put the excluder in (making sure the queen is below). The bees will be willing to go through the screen then to get back to their honey.
(Click the photos at left to enlarge for a better view of the details. Note the rainbow like pattern that the queen lays in. Oldest brood larvae would be in the middle and the youngest as you work out centrally. The white caps across the top are honey. The bees keep honey and pollen stored on the frames along with their babies. That way the nurse bees don't have to travel very far to get some food to feed the babies).
Then I had a little debate with myself about the feeder. I know that the feeder should not be on the hive when the honey box is on the hive BUT the honey box didn't have drawn honey combs ready to be filled by the bees. Instead, it had plastic wax coated foundation waiting for the bees to create the comb.
So I've left the sugar feeder on for a bit. If the bees need the syrup to help them make comb, then it's available to them. If they don't need it, then they can ignore it. Once the frames are drawn with comb, I will remove the honey super. What's your experience? Have I goofed up here? Let me know what you think.

I did not plan to inspect Hive#1 because they had been disrupted a few too many times, but because Hive #2 was at the 7 in 10 ratio I thought I'd better check Hive #1's progress. My reasoning was that if they were also at 7 in 10 frames drawn and full, they would need more room. We were also scheduled for about 4 days of solid rain and I thought this could cause swarming behaviour if they needed more room and had no place to go.
These bees are doing very well and the inspection showed that the interruptions due to the whole leaky hive feeder had slowed them down. I'd say they are delayed by a week.
I left frame 10 in place and removed frame 9. Both frame 9, 8 and 7 were drawn with comb and had nectar in many of the cells. Frame number 6 was the jackpot with a heavy frame. As with the other hive, it had capped honey along the top and capped and uncapped brood in the centre.
I did not see the queen and did not pursue to find her. At least with seeing tiny brood I know she was alive 3 days ago.
I did not put on the honey super yet. I decided to give them one more week to finish filling up frame 7. I don't want the bees to travel up and start drawing comb in a honey super if they haven't first finished filling up the bottom box.
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