On June 17th I went over to the Host hive in the evening. My plan was not to open the hive, but to look around and in the window to see how things are going. There was plenty of activity around the outside of the hive. The bees were still very active even into the evening hours.
They had three empty bars still, so there was no need for me to open the hive. I did open the lid. Living up there was a bold jumper spider that I shooed away. I am sure the spider will be back. There was also a bar that had popped up and the bees had begun to fill the gap with propolis. I cleaned that up and got the bar to go back down where it should have been.
I put everything away and closed up the hive. I am a bit concerned about the lack of growth with this colony. When they came through the winter they were growing quickly and looking good. They seemed to have slowed down now and I am not sure what that means. My other two hives are growing very quickly and seem to be doing better.
Since I was concerned during my last visit, I decided to do a full inspection on July 4th. I haven’t been able to do many full inspections due to the temperament of this colony. It seems that it is very stressful for them when I am looking around in the hive. The are always grumpy and so many of them come out and try to sting me. I am very happy that I have my Ultra Breeze bee suit!
While preparing to do this inspection I decided that I was going to use sugar water to spray them with instead of the smoker. I really don’t like using the smoker because I don’t enjoy the smoke, it bothers my eyes and nose and throat. I have read that some beekeepers spray their bees with sugar water to help to distract them. My hope was to give them something other to focus on than me then maybe they won’t be so angry.
I mixed up one part sugar and one part water. I also added a couple of drop of spearmint essential oil, hoping to please the bees. If I can get them to relax a little things will be much easier. I usually carry peppermint essential oil and cinnamon with me to, but I use those mostly to deter ants.
Once I was at the hive, I did my usual visual checks around the hive. I looked at the front of the hive and watched the bees for a little bit. Everything that was going on in the doorway looked normal. There were plenty of bees going in and out of the hive. There was pollen coming in and I am sure there was nectar coming in. The bees have filled one of the entrances three quarters of the way with propolis. I guess they don’t want to use that hole. I am not going to put the plug in it yet to allow for ventilation.
I opened the observation window to see if there has been any more progress. Things looked about the same as they had two weeks ago. This hive does not have as many bees in it as my other two hives. I am really getting worried about this slow down. They don’t seem as healthy as they were in the early spiring.
I opened up the lid and the bold jumper spider had returned. I guess it likes the nice little cave that it found. I just left it be this time, it doesn’t seem to be bothering the bees at all. The weather was good, 78 degrees and sunny. I had my sugar water ready to spray. I also made forms to fill out at each inspection so that I can keep all my data together in a binder. My little notepad was not holding up well.
After I started the inspection, Rachel came outside and wanted to join me. I always keep extra gear with me, so others can join in if they want to. She got suited up and helped me dig into the hive. The bees did not seem to mind that I was spraying them with the sugar water. It actually seemed to occupy them. They were a lot less grumpy during this inspection.
I spotted everything that I need to except the queen and eggs. It is very hard for me to see eggs in this hive. Last year, I had the same problem and I was taking the comb away from the hive to get a better look at it. I have learned that taking the comb away from the hive is a very bad idea. The queen could fall off the comb and you could step on her! That would be awful! I witnessed first hand a queen falling off of a frame when I was helping out another beekeeper with his hives this year.
Since I have such a hard time finding eggs in this hive, I just really pay attention to what else I see in the hive. When I am able to see eggs, it makes me feel more at ease. There were four bars with larvae on them and several bars with capped brood. The brood pattern is not looking as strong as it should.
The colony has plenty of capped honey, nectar, and pollen in the hive. I am very happy to see that the bees are still bringing in all that they need. This summer has been very dry here, we are actually in a drought. If you visit my garden you wouldn’t know it though. I grow a lot of food and I need to keep it watered in order to be able to enjoy that food. I also grow a lot of food for the bees. My front yard is lined with buckwheat and borage and the bees have been really enjoying it.
Much to my surprise I spotted two wax moth larvae in the hive! I had never seen them before, but I looked them up and they do damage to the wood in a hive as well. That’s how I figured it out, they had damaged one of the bars a little bit. I squished them and got them out of the hive. I did not see any moths or any other signs of them. I will check thoroughly again the next time I am in the hive. I really hope that they don’t become a problem, this colony seems to be having a hard enough time.
The only downside I found to spraying the bees with sugar water was that everything was sticky afterward! I had to really clean off my gloves, tools, and phone. When I don’t have help to take pictures, I use my phone and it got covered it sugar water. Luckily, I have it protected so it was the cover that I had to clean. I use alcohol wipes to clean my tools after every inspection anyway. I also try to clean my gloves after every inspection. I don’t want to take chances spreading any possible diseases between the hives.
Now I am going to try to find an experienced beekeeper to come out to the hive and help me inspect it in a couple of weeks. It is always nice to have an extra set of eyes, especially ones with experience. I hope that things get better in the hive and I hope to get some answers soon.