March 30, 2010
Checking in with my Beehives
My beekeeper, Guy Hodges, stopped by the farm last week to perform an early spring inspection of the hives. You may recall that on his last visit, with snow still on the ground, Guy removed the outer and inner cover and supplemented the hives with fondant bee candy to provide nourishment until early spring flowers began to bloom. He also discovered that one of my three hives did not survive the winter and would have to be reestablished. On this last visit, Guy wanted to check the remaining hives for activity to see how healthy the singular queen of each hive was after a very harsh winter. He was happy with what he discovered. Please enjoy another tour of the amazing life of the honeybee.
1 Before opening the beehive, Guy bellows his smoker into it to subdue the colony. He fuels the smoke with dry pine needles.
2 The outer cover is lifted off.
3 The outer cover provides weather protection.
4 Next, the inner cover is carefully lifted off the upper super. This inner cover confines the bees to the super, preventing them from attaching comb to the outer cover. It also provides insulation.
5 You may recall last March when Guy added fondant bee candy, providing extra nourishment for the bees. Not all was consumed because the bees are finding nectar outside the hive, so he is removing the excess fondant.
6 All the while, active bees exit and enter the hive.
7 Now that the frames are exposed, Guy uses his hive tool to pry and loosen a frame for lifting out.
8 He is happy to see how full of honey the frame is. With so much honey, the entire upper super weighs approximately 80 pounds!
9 This dark amber substance is called propolis, which the bees produce, sealing the hive to keep out predator insects. It is also an incredible antibiotic.
10 Carlos, clad in his bee garb - he doesn't trust the bees as much as Guy does. Carlos is removing the bales of hay, which were stacked around the hives to block the cold winter winds.
11 With this frame clean, Guy temporarily hangs it outside the hive.
12 A better look
13 Guy is hoping to find the queen to see if she is healthy and actively producing new brood, so he removes another frame.
14 Notice that Guy does all of this without gloves or a protective veil!
15 Ah-ha! There's the queen with the blue dot and she has been very productive. All of the capped cells that you see contain new larvae.
16 The white substance is bee larvae, which unfortunately was formed in comb built outside of the frame. It will not survive this inspection.
17 Guy continues scraping and cleaning.
18 With the inspection and cleaning complete for now, Guy removes the upper and lower supers, revealing the bottom screen and hive stand.
19 The bees that died over the winter are swept away. Winter death is normal in a hive.
20 The hive stand is scraped clean.
21 Wooden shims are positioned to create a slight angle for any moisture to drain out.
22 Putting the hive back together, Guy slips in the bottom mite tray, which catches dropping mites and any other debris. Looking at this tray from time to time is a good way to keep track of what is going on inside the hive.
23 Scraping off more propolis sealer.
24 And finally cleaning up the outer cover before replacing