Went down to the bees today. As it’s a Sunday, no-one was down the apiary (people usually meet on Saturdays, 2-5), which always makes me a little nervous. I lit the smoker, which promptly went out within five minutes. Luckily my bees are gentle, so I continued my inspection without bothering to re-light it.
First I lifted off the roof and crownboard, which I upturned on the ground next to me. Then I peered in the super (the super contains smaller frames which the beekeeper hopes to see full of honey. The queen should not be able to get up there to lay brood, as a queen excluder is placed in-between the brood boxes and super. A queen excluder can be made of metal or plastic, with small cylindrical holes punched in it which only the worker bees can fit through). The super was completely empty. As July is the main nectar flow month here, I have a feeling our bees won’t make much or any honey up there this year 😦
I took the super off and placed it on top of the roof, before removing the queen excluder and carefully turning it over to make sure the queen wasn’t on there. No sign of her, so I placed the queen excluder on top of the super. Onto the brood boxes…
Two weeks ago I united two hives using a piece of newspaper between their two brood boxes, which gives the bees time to chew through it and get used to each others’ smells. We united them because they were both quite small and one appeared to be queen-less. I was pleased to find lots of young uncapped larvae today. As I was on my own I decided not to bother looking for the queen too hard, as she’s unmarked and I didn’t fancy trying to mark her without anyone to hold the frame steady for me.
The top brood box was packed full of beautiful honey and brood. Beautiful, heavy honey and brood. I wanted to lift it off to inspect the bottom brood box underneath and remove the last bits of newspaper left. However, the two boxes had got stuck together, probably partly with propolis, an anti-bacterial sticky brown substance which bees collect from tree resin. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to lift that brood box up or not, and I only just managed to heave it off and put it on top of the super.
A quick look through (the bees had begun to buzz round my face in a accusatory manner by this point) showed that the bees haven’t done so much in the lower brood box, with only about half the frames from the entrance backwards filled up with honey and brood. I took off some brace comb on top of the frames (brace comb is comb built anywhere outside the frame area), which was probably contributing to the two boxes sticking together. Some of it was dripping with honey and looked very tasty, but as it was also covered with bees who objected to me removing it, I didn’t fancy unzipping my bee suit to try it. Instead I put the brace comb in my pockets, an idiotic move which made the pockets of my newly washed beesuit completely sticky. You can’t just throw bits of brace comb on the apiary floor as that could spread disease, but I should have had a plastic bag with me to put them in, or perhaps left them in the hive roof for the bees to clean out. Won’t be doing that again.
So they seem okay, but knowing me I’ve probably squashed the queen as well as having made my pockets a sticky mess. It’s probably best that I’m off on holiday next week.