Recent Inspections and a Surprising Revelation

Last weekend we (finally!) had time to inspect both hives.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m rather nervous about our taller hive.  The bees are just plain aggressive.  I hope that I’m exaggerating this feeling both in my head and in my posts, but I won’t know until I can talk another beekeeper into coming to inspect with me.  Which should have happened last weekend…but I got a bit waylaid (explanation below).

So, Wayne and I headed out all suited up.  Recently, rather than wearing my lovely bands around my jeans, I’ve taken to wearing my oh-so-pretty purple boots.  They come up almost to my knees and are a pretty sturdy rubber, so there’s no way a stinger could get through them (this is relevant…I promise).  Anyway…we suited up and headed out.  The goal was to make sure we still had signs of a queen, a good brood pattern, etc and to see what the hives had left for stores.  Basically, we wanted to determine if feeding was necessary.

As you can see, the activity is finally dying down slightly at the entrances to the hives. It’s not that the bees aren’t active, but the weather has started to cool down significantly at night and they are bearding less and less.

Opening the top of the first hive, we found a few of our lovely roach friends hanging about and (eek!) some small hive beetles.  I battled with them at the end of the last summer and it seems they are back with a vengeance.

Check out the number of them hanging out in the waterer.

They scuttled away from me as fast as they could go, but I managed to take a couple shots.

The top box was fairly unremarkable.

They do have some honey stores, but not much.  Most of what’s there isn’t even capped.

Here’s the fun part.  When we moved the honey super, the bees went nuts.  I mean crazy.  They were swirling around us, flying directly into our veils.  Interestingly, they kept flying at my camera.  It makes taking pictures a bit challenging when a bee is trying to sting your lens.  We stood really still and tried to give them a few minutes to relax.  I will warn that we’ve never used smoke.  I’ve never felt the need until recently, but I’m beginning to think it’s a requirement for this hive.

After they relaxed slightly we were able to pull out a couple brood frames and take a look.  The queen is clearly still strong and everything looks just fine.

Here’s the hive after we closed everything up:

Our second hive is our new one and is very, very calm.  It’s so strange to check them both in one visit – a weird juxtaposition.  I decided that I would do this inspection all on my own and left Wayne in charge of the camera.  The honey super was rather unremarkable.  There were a few frames that were not even drawn out.

As our previous post explains, the lack of drawn out frames is our fault.  We waited too long between inspections and didn’t realize that the unwired foundation I used had melted (yep…completely) leaving the bees with nothing to draw out and a mess in the bottom of the hive.

As we progressed into the brood chamber, the laying pattern kept getting stronger.  I did notice that they are storing quite a bit of honey beside the brood.  I’m not sure if this is related to honey super problem mentioned above?

We also did see various larvae stages, so all appeared to be just fine…and then I noticed this:

A closer view:

I want to say there were three or four of these cells on the frames.  As of the inspection, all were empty.  I’m hoping they were old or (maybe) unneeded.  As everything else in the hive appears to be fine, I decided not to worry.

While I was closing up this hive, I felt some strange on my knee and then the telltale sign of a sting.   It seems a bee wandered straight up my boot and got a bit pissed off when we found skin.  Against Wayne’s advice, I pulled up my pant leg (I know, I know) to try to retrieve the stinger, and then moved quickly into the house to make sure I got it all.  I put some homeopathic sting treatment on it as I’ve done in past and went on with my day.  That night I was trying to sleep and felt my leg throbbing so much, it kept waking me up.  By the morning, the pain was running into my toes.  I got dressed and went to work and mid morning checked my leg to find that the redness was in a large circle around the sting, running behind my leg a bit and down.  I ended up going to the doctor who told me she believes I’m developing an allergy to bees.  I calmly explained that it was not possible.  I am a beekeeper.  She shrugged and offered me a steroid and an antibiotic.  I hate steroids, so I avoided them, but by the time I got home from work the pain was pretty unbearable.  I took the steroid and within a few hours the swelling and redness dissapated.

So, I am a beekeeper with an allergy.  How unfortunate.  In retaliation, I’ve made sure my Epipen is still in date and ordered a full suit from Brushy Mountain.  I’m avoiding the bees altogether until I can ensure I’m fully protected.  As I’ve been stung several times (both before getting hives and since), this is definitely a curve ball I didn’t expect.

A (somewhat related) shameless plug: Although we did not get any honey this year, I did manage to harvest some lovely wax courtesy of our bees.  Wayne and I are now making handcrafted soaps and lip balms for sale.  Check out our website to find out more.  Our products are for sale on Etsy and through various farmers markets, fairs, and festivals.  Of course, you can also find us on facebook.