First Spring Inspection

Yesterday Wayne and I inspected the hive top to bottom.  I had a specific plan in my head of what we were going to do (all in hopes of preventing swarming), but as they say, bees don’t read the books and nothing proceeded as I’d imagined.

The initial plan was to remove the three original standard frames (ensuring the queen and most of the bees stay behind), and put them in a nuc box to return to David who gave them to me originally.  He was going to add the brood to a colony he has that didn’t overwinter well.  We were then going to swap the two boxes, rearrange the frames, and add a super for them to fill.

This is how we started.  Wayne is in the background nailing screen onto the entrance of the nuc box for transport.  The bees were actually quite active yesterday although you can’t see much in this picture.  It was warm (70+) and sunny – just an overall gorgeous day.

When we opened the first, we found the bees still fairly clustered.   As you can see, they are still spending all their time on the original standard frames that David gave me.  It causes a problem as I bought 8 frame shallows from Brushy Mountain when I set up my hive, and we are not able to fill the bottom super because of the longer frames.

Here’s what we found on the three long frames.  I’m glad the colony is doing well, but I’m a bit concerned about the brood pattern.  A couple of the frames look a bit strange to me.

Check out all the burr comb they are adding to the bottom of each frame!  I tried to clean most of it up, but I imagine they’ll just put in right back.  I didn’t get a shot of the honey frame, but they’ve added burr comb to one frame (it happens to be to the one with small hive beetle trap), and filled around the trap and the bottom with honey.  It was surprisingly heavy.

They’ve also filled everything except these three brood frames with honey.  We didn’t find an empty frame in either box.

More burr comb here.  This is the first time I was able to see stored pollen.  I’ve been watching them bring in bright red and yellow pollen for days and I could actually see those same colors stored around the brood in the frames.  I wish it would come through on the photos.

After quite a bit of searching, we finally located the queen.  The picture’s a bit fuzzy, but here she is:

So, we ended up rearranging frames the best we could.  I only saw one or two drone cells while we were inspecting, so I added two empty frames in each box.  I left honey as the outside frames, and room for brood in the middle.  I really, really hope she starts laying elsewhere so I can start removing the long frames.  We ended up adding a super with mostly new foundation, but one filled honey frame hoping they will use it as a hint.

And here’s how we ended:

Overall, I felt like the inspection went well.  The queen is still laying and there were all stages of brood present.  They are definitely storing honey, and lots of it.  I spotted one small hive beetle during our inspection.  I’m hoping the cold winter took care of them, but it may be too early for them to be out in mass just yet.    The colony has decreased in size over the winter, but that was to be expected.   I’m quite excited to see how they do as we head into the nectar flow.

The best part of the whole experience was how patient they were with us.  We were in the hive for much longer than I’d planned and did quite a bit of playing around.  They were so calm through the whole process, only getting upset and pinging me when I pushed a frame just a bit too hard.  As usual for us, all of this work was done smoke free.  I brought a spray bottle of sugar water just in case, but I only used it once.  I’m not sure if we’re adjusting to them, or they’re adjusting to us, or if the weather was just so nice that no one could get angry, but it was an encouraging experience.

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