Honey Bee Maintenance: Checking the Hive
I am a novice beekeeper. Currently I have two bee hives and they are both thriving. Two years ago I had one hive and they survived through the first winter but then I lost all of the bees by the end of spring. I think the hive lost its queen and just wasn’t able to recover. They were eventually overtaken by every other flying insect; yellow jackets, hornets, and other honey bees. They came in and stole all their honey. My bees were either killed, left to find a better home, or joined another hive.
This spring I started again. This time with two hives. And this time, I’ve learned a thing or two.
Things I’ve learned:
- Bees need you. They can be totally self sufficient, but since you’ve provided them a hive you need to make certain it’s an adequate size or they will find another place to live.
- Check the hive at least every two weeks. You are looking to see how full the frames are. If 3/4 of the frames have comb you want to add another box with empty frames. You are also checking for brood. Is there new larva? Is there capped larva? Is there honey? Are there any queen cells?
- When checking the hive and pulling out the frames, wear a bee suit. Yeah….I thought I didn’t need to wear one one time…
- Never wear black fleece when checking your bee hive and pulling out frames….see above. Black fleece resembles, perhaps ….a bear. They really don’t like big black fuzzy things getting into their hive.
- Check for the queen. I don’t see the queen very often, but there are signs of a queen. If the queen is present and active, you will see lots of larva at different stages. The picture below shows worker bees tending to the larva. The open cells contain larva at different stages and the ones with the caps are in the pupa stage. The total development time is 21 days for worker bees. Notice the bee towards the top center with yellow on either side? That is pollen stuck to its legs. Pollen is fed to the larva or turned into honey.
The queen bee can be seen in the picture below. She is the HUGE bee in the center. I don’t know how she can be so elusive most of the time. Once you find her, you know it right away. The cells she is walking on with the white coating contain honey.
I love watching my bees. They are truly fascinating. If you’ve ever wondered where the term, “Busy as Bees” came from, all you need to do is watch a bee hive. I don’t suit up when I am near my bee hives. Only if I am going to open up the boxes and pull out all the frames. That is when they think I am a predator. At other times, they don’t pay me any notice at all.
The orange on the bee above is pollen. This bee just landed and is working his way into the box. The picture below shows how busy the opening is. The bees are constantly moving and flying in and out of the boxes.
I still have a lot to learn about bee keeping. I’m hoping for healthy hives and lots of honey!
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