Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hive Inspection Leads to Startling News

Inspecting the hive today!

Today we did a hive inspection to just make sure everything was ok. I have noticed a decreased amount of activity in the hive this week and wondered what was going on. The weather has been rainy and chilly and very gusty this week. I thought part of the reason they were not very active could have been weather related. But I was surprised by what I found, or rather, what I did not find in the hive when we opened it up.

My partner and I all suited up ready to handle some bees.

When we too the top off the hive the first thing we noticed was an undertaker bee doing it's best to haul out a dead carcass. I have seen this plenty of times before, but I have never captured it on camera!
Undertaker bee carrying a dead bee out of the hive.
Undertaker bee climbing out of the hive with a dead bee.
Undertaker bee disposing of the body of a dead bee.
After we observed the undertaker bees for a while, we pulled out the first bar full of comb. It was pristine white and there was nothing in it. No brood and no honey. I would have liked to see this partly full of honey, but it looks like the hive is not concentrating on food production and storage as much as building up the colony and creating was comb.
Pristine but empty bar of comb.
 We continued pulling comb out and noticed the population had about doubled in size. The frames were mostly full of empty brood cells surrounded by capped and uncapped brood. We did not find any capped honey but there were cells filled with uncapped honey. We did have the fortune to see a new bee being born! She was pushing her way through the cap and sticking her little face out! It was so cool!

Pulling out bars of comb full of capped brood.
Capped brood next to empty brood cells. The bees were busy cleaning out the unused cells and tending to the bees pushing their way out of the was caps.
Here you can see the face of a bee popping through the wax cap. The new bees that just hatch will go on to bee nurse bees, taking care of the larvae for the first few days of it's life. 
 We noticed quite a few cells surrounding the old brood cells that were full of larvae. This was a good sign but we did not notice any new eggs nor did we spot the queen.
We found quite a few cells filled with larvae.
The central brood cells were very empty. We could see the population of the hive had doubled and there were still capped and uncapped brood surrounding these open cells.
Some capped brood next to some empty cells.

Here are a couple bees chaining or measuring as we pulled the comb out of the hive.
 As we pulled the fourth piece of comb out we noticed a few of the bees full of pollen were doing the infamous bee dance while the others watched. This is how they communicate to the other foragers where the food source is and how long it takes to get there. It is kind of like bee GPS!

The blurry bee near the top center of the photo was the one doing the bee dance. She was in the middle of a serious waggle when I took the photo.
 I need to take a break here and show you my bees foraging on my borage and clover. My yard is filled with flowers for them and my neighborhood is a wonderful place for them to get lots of nectar.

Honey bee from my hive gathering some nectar from the clover flower in my yard.

One of the honey bees from my hive enjoying the borage I planted for them!

 Here is where it gets interesting. The second to last frame we pull out of the hive has a queen cell that has hatched! It looks like something happened to our queen within the past 10 days or so and they made a new one. We did not spot a queen bee at all, so we are not sure if it was successful or not. The new queen could be out on her mating flight, but we are just not sure. We are going to go back into the hive in 2 days and see if we can spot the queen or at least evidence that she is there. I had a feeling something wasn't quite right with the hive this past week and my suspicions were correct. The hive looks otherwise healthy and growing. I would like to see more comb built, more eggs and brood in the empty cells and of course to spot the queen! If we do not see the queen when we next inspect, I will have to requeen the hive.

This bar of comb has empty cells, capped cells with brood and the long wax cone coming down on the right side of the photo is a hatched queen cell.

Queen cell on a frame.
We entered the hive around 1pm this afternoon. It was 68 degrees, sunny with clouds in the sky and slightly gusty.

I was concerned for the health of the hive since I noticed a decline in activity this past week. Every frame but the first contained empty brood cells in the center, surrounded by capped brood (no drone cells) and out from that uncapped larvae and honey. The newest white comb did not contain anything in it.

It looked like the hive doubled in size from the last inspection.

We did not find the queen anywhere. But we did find a queen cell that had recently hatched. It looks like the old queen died and they made a new one.

We will check on the hive and specifically look for the queen in 2 days. If no queen is found, we will requeen the hive as soon as possible. 

The bees are continually expanding their comb.

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