Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the Roof: Early Spring Beehive Inspection

Noam came over to Art and H2's to check on their two hives.  The exceptionally warm weather we've had this year has led the bees to start their pollen (used to build bee muscles and glands) and nectar (the carbohydrate source that keeps the bees running) gathering early, and he wanted to make sure everything was ok.

He explained that, among other things, he would be looking to see that the queen(s) were laying brood--baby bees--and checking for any signs that either hive was getting full, which would cause the bees to swarm.

(Click on any picture for a larger view.)

After putting on his veil, Noam lit the smoker.

He first addressed what he guessed would be the "weaker" of the two hives; the one he thought, given its past performance, might not have made it through the winter.

After removing the top and inner cover, he scraped away the propolis holding a frame to the hive body and pulled it out. 

Not finding any in the upper body, he set it aside and checked for brood in the lower super.

Success! The queen is laying. The capped brood cells are a dull orange in color and are mostly hidden by the mass of bees in the top center of the frame.

Turning his attention to the second hive, upon taking off the cover he immediately noticed that bees were spilling out the tops of all the frames.  No doubt the queen was laying here.  Not only that, they were running out of space. Unless he added another hive body, they would fly off en mass, or swarm, in search of a larger home.

He pulled an unused medium hive body from his stores and placed 9 empty frames inside.

In order to prevent the queen, with its larger thorax, from migrating to the upper hive bodies, he places a "queen excluder", basically a screen, above the lower two hive bodies.  Those lower bodies are exclusively for brood.  Anything higher in the hive will contain only honey, so there is no danger of "harvesting" the queen when its time to extract honey.

Here he is scraping last seasons propolis from the exluder. 

Excluder in place, he lowers the new, empty framed, hive body in place.


H2 said...

Good update, Bruce.

Our 80-degree Chicago days must be forcing blooming trees to flower early. The bees returning to the hives (which I see on a monitor downstairs) are LOADED with pollen--two visible balls of it on their saddlebag rear legs.

We're visualizing a honey harvest like we had two years ago...

bahns said...

"After putting on his veil, Noam lit the smoker."

Always a great way to get the party started.

Richard Boles said...

Clever idea of maximizing the space of your roof top as a nesting ground for the bees.
I wonder how people reacted when they found out that their neighbor is nursing a colony of bees. In my case, I find the practice very intriguing.

Richard Boles

H2 said...

Hey Richard:
Happily, the neighbors who know we have hives are intrigued and want to learn more about honeybees.

bahns: you make me laugh.