Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bee Update

Mom and I did a hive check this weekend.

This year has been so much fun. Our lone hive, Mud Honey, has proved to be docile and content. What a change from last year! I remember late last summer pulling off the top cover and immediately hearing the tone of the hive become deeper, louder, angrier. We got stung a lot, last year. 

This time around, it's completely different. The hive is healthy, the queen is laying, and, even after digging down into the deepest layers of the hive, the bees continue with their gentle, happy humming. It's been so pleasant that I'm almost expecting something terrible to occur. 

This time around we went down to the very deepest of the brood chambers. We were pleased to see that the chambers were free of honey and clean. They were also free of larvae, indicating that the brood had likely recently hatched. We didn't spot the queen. 

As we were rebuilding the hive, we peeked in on a few of the honey supers and were dismayed to see a few of them filled with eggs. Our queen had evidently run out of space down below in her brood chamber and moved up. Not bad news, but not ideal. 

After inspecting a few more supers, I spotted the queen (thank god for the brilliant blue paint). We then proceeded with the tricky task of moving her back down into the brood chamber. Injure/kill your queen in this maneuver and you've set your hive back by at least four weeks. And at the height of summer, to boot. 

We then slapped a queen excluder on above the brood chamber but decided to rotate it 90 degrees, leaving several inches on either side for bees to make their way up to the honey stores. We'd read that queen excluders often discourage worker bees from storing honey in the upper suppers since it's tough work to squeeze between the bars. By turning the excluder 90 degrees, two inch gaps are left along the sides. Since the queen is unlikely to leave the very middle of the hive, it's rare for her to encounter the open sides of the excluder, yet easy for the workers to make their way up to the supers. 

We'll let you know how it goes.