Bee inspection – Aug ’11

I try not to inspect the bees too often. Unlike other livestock these are essentially wild creatures and disrupting their hives frequently can cause them undue stress and make them prone to disease. So I try to open the hives only when I spy a problem.

This is the problem I tried to diagnose yesterday:

See how both Lady Grey (left) and Chai (right) are crowded with bee traffic, but Darjeeling shows barely any bees?

It used to be that Darjeeling looked the most populous. Then quite suddenly 2-3 weeks ago it seemed like the population plummeted, leaving as above. I kept hoping it was a fluke that would solve itself, but finally I realized that I had to intervene. After all, the population decline might be due to queenlessness, in which case I was in a hurry to insert new brood frames so they could make themselves a new queen before winter.

Yesterday I had a quick opportunity to dive in there before the thunderstorms, and took it even though the short time frame meant I couldn’t do a full inspection. That was ok, because all I was looking for was eggs. If there were eggs, I knew there was a functioning queen.

Thank goodness, they’re not queenless! It’s not a very populated frame, but at least there are all stages of brood including eggs so I know the queen was in there as recently as two days ago – so she’s not the problem.

(If you enlarge the photo above, you may be able to spy some of the tiny eggs – shaped like grains of rice – in the darker cells.)

I wish I’d had time to dive into the lower box and see if it was any more densely populated than the upper box. Perhaps in two weeks I will, if the situation doesn’t improve.

In better news, I also inspected Chai. I was nervous that the colony looked so populous it might entirely outgrow the box, and possibly swarm away. I was right to be nervous!

This is a pretty good-looking frame of brood for the center of a box. But it was located all the way at the edge of the box, which is space normally reserved for honey stores and drone brood (less essential things). This may be a sign that the other frames are already completely full up and the bees are getting crowded. It also seems like they’re working so hard on building their population that they had no room for honey stores for winter.

Easy peasy solution – I took the medium honey super off the top of Darjeeling, who had pretty much left off using it, and added it on top of Chai. Since it’s about 1/3 full of honey, this solves two problems at once.

And when I left for the day under growling skies, my three little hives looked a bit more equal in stature.

About two minutes after I got the hives all closed up and my gear all put away in the garage, the skies opened up. Talk about good timing.

One Response to “Bee inspection – Aug ’11”

  1. Sam Says:

    Its possible depending on the timing that Darjeeling was queen-less and the new queen is just starting. Glad to see things are ok.

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