A member of the beekeeping club that I belong to has shown interest in top bar beekeeping. I invited him to inspect the host hive with me. We met up at eight am on August first. The weather was good and the sun was out. We looked in the observation window first. They had a couple of empty bars still. The rest of the hive looked full and busy.
The smoker was proving to be difficult for me. It took a bit of work to get it lit and going. I smoked the entrance of the hive and then opened it. The first bar that I took out, the comb broke. When I looked at the comb they had “glued” it to the side, there was quite a bit of propolis on it. The comb was empty and unused. There were three more combs that were full, but unused. I got a little further into the hive and inspected several more combs. There was uncapped and capped honey, but no brood it the any of the combs that I looked over.
The bees were getting very agitated by this time. The hum of the hive had turned into a very loud buzz. At this point the smoker went out. My guest and I agreed that it was time to close up the hive. Neither one of us wanted to continue into an angry hive especially without a smoker. The colony is strong and seem to be doing well, so I felt comfortable ending the inspection.
As it turns out, it was a good thing that we closed up the hive. Not long after we did the dark clouds rolled in. There wasn’t any rain or thunder, just thick cloud cover. This colony has already expressed how little they like cloudy days. I will have to come back when the day is clear.
On June 16th, I inspected the hive at the host house. The weather was warm, but it was somewhat cloudy. The bees seemed grumpy today, I am assuming that they do not like me opening their hive on a cloudy day. I have spoken with the family at the host house to see if the bees have been at all agressive. They let me know that the bees are very active, but have not been aggressive.
This colony is growing and building comb quickly. They had sixteen bars and I added seven more. While inspecting the bars I found eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen, and honey stores. The bees had also built three queen cups, but they were empty. The colony is looking very healthy and doing well.
As I said earlier, the bees were very aggressive today. Toward the end of the inspection I got stung on the leg through my jeans and my rain pants. She must have worked very hard to sting me! I finished the inspection and got everything closed up. I found some plaintain leaves, chewed them up, and put the salve on my leg where I was stung. It helped some and my reaction wasn’t too bad until the evening. Then my leg had a very large welt on it and the burning started.
My husband was also stung. One of the bees crawled into his boot and stung him through his jeans. At first he said that it wasn’t too bad, but by the afternoon his leg was completely swollen from hip to toes. His leg stayed swollen for about two weeks. This was the first time that his reaction was worse than mine.
In the future I am going to do my best to inspect on a sunny day, I am hoping that the bees will be happier. I will also be using the smoker, which means that I have to practice lighting it! I am am not very good at having the smoker stay lit long enough to get me through the inspection.
I recruited help again for this inspection, I needed someone to take the pictures! I have been feeling comfortable enough to not use the smoker when I open the hives. Using the smoker feels like a big project to me. I still need practice lighting it and keeping it lit. Sometimes it works well for me and other times it just burns out. I like not feeling like I have to use it every time.
This colony has ten bars in use, but one was still empty and two had small combs on them. The bars with small comb also had festooning bees hanging from them. I did not want to disturb their comb making process, so I did not move those bars. I added four empty bars and placed them in between the bars that had full combs drawn.
On this inspection I found lots of larvae! The larvae was very obvious this time. I was relieved to see so much larvae. I also saw plenty of eggs and capped brood. I did not find the queen, but there was plenty of evidence of her being there.
Some of the comb was bulging out toward the top of the bar. I tried to fix it a little, since the wax is still soft. I am not sure of the best way to fix this though. I didn’t want to make too much of a mess of things. I did move each of the bars that had full combs on them. I wanted to make sure that the combs are not stuck to the sides of the hive.
When I move the bars that the bees have started building comb onto the sides, the bees swoop in quickly and begin to fix the comb. They also collect any honey that may have spilled from moving the bars. When they are taking care of that they are less likely to care what I am doing.
The bees did not seem angry today when I opened the hive. They seemed mostly calm, of course there are the guard bees that were trying to protect their home. They were not aggressive though and the inspection went very well.
I had mentioned to my husband that I needed to do an inspection of the hive that is in the host yard. We got everything ready and went over. For some reason, my husband thought shorts were acceptable to wear when opening a bee hive! Needless to say he got stung and even though I had pants on one got me too. We headed home without inspecting the hive.
I chewed up a plantain leaf and put it onto the sting, many people swear by it’s healing properties. I kept it on for about fifteen minutes. The area where I was stung seemed to be okay until the evening, it swelled up. I had another welt on my leg that was the size of a soccer ball. That night I went out and bought rain pants. Trying on pants with a huge welt on your leg is not pleasant!
The next morning I decided that I would inspect the hive on my own. I made sure that all of my gear was on tight and I put my new rain pants on for extra protection. The weather was good, so I was hoping for happy bees.
The first thing that I checked was under the hive lid for wasps. The lid was clear, so I continued on with the inspection. The colony has fifteen bars, one of them is empty and I added one more. The colony seems to be growing very quickly.
While looking through the hive, I spotted the queen and watched her for a moment. She seems healthy and active. There is many signs of her presence within the hive. There are a lot of eggs, larvae, and capped brood.
There was a section of drone brood on one of the bars. I was able to watch one of the drones chew threw the cap and come out of the cell. It was interesting to see the nurse bees come and attend to the drone so quickly.
Some of the combs were not built straight down. There were some bulges near the top of the bars which caused some of the other combs to be shaped funny. When I removed those bars for inspection, some of the capped honey spilled from the bulge being broken open. The bees were very quick to come and clean up the spilled honey. The bees that came to clean up the honey had no interest in me at all, they just focused on cleaning up.
I saw everything that I needed to. The main difference between this hive and my other hive is that the colony is growing very quickly with this one and the other hive seems to be putting more focus into honey production. It will be interesting to see how things progress through the summer.
Once the inspection was over I took off my coat and rain pants. It was quite warm today and all that gear did not help. The rain pants got very hot and I was happy to get them off. I may need to consider a beekeeping suit.
It’s been a while since I have dedicated some time to writing a new post. I had an incident with a honey bee and have been in hiding. While I was gardening a very angry honey bee landed on my shirt. She stung me in the chest and I pulled my shirt away from my body to try to reduce the pain. To pay me back for letting her live, she went into my shirt! As I was fighting to get my shirt off, she stung me in the head! The welt on my chest was big, red, and very sore. The welt on my head looked like a big egg, almost like someone had punched me in the forehead. I had a horrible headache for several days.
Beekeeping and gardening were put on hold. The first couple of days I didn’t even want to be outside. Every time I heard buzzing near my head, I got nervous. I had no desire to mulch the garden where the beehives are or plant veggies. I am feeling a little better about things now, but I am not as comfortable as I used to be.
I am very lucky to live close to Lens Pro to Go. Whenever I need a camera lens, I can head over to rent one. This time I rented a GoPro camera. I thought it would be fun to record the first real inspections of my top bar hives. I got the head strap for the camera and it fit well over my beekeeping hat. Since I had the GoPro, I didn’t need someone else to be there taking pictures or video. It was exciting to think about doing inspections on my own.
The bees in the top bar hive in the host yard have been in their hive longer than the bees in my yard, so I planned to inspect their hive first. I had been over to check on them through the observation window and they seemed to have stopped taking the sugar water. They have been foraging well, so I decided that it would be a good time to remove the feeders. I also planned to inspect the comb for brood and honey.
The morning that I went over to the hive, I opened the lid and found a paper wasp starting a nest on the lid. Wasps are my least favorite thing! I had to figure out how to get it out of there. The family had a net for catching butterflies and I borrowed it. I was able to get the wasp and its nest into the net and destroy them both.
Now it was time for me to remove the feeders. I took out the jars from the hive and then moved the divider board so that I could add some more empty bars. I added four bars into the area where the bees are. I did a short inspection and only looked at a couple of bars. The bees had built comb on nine bars.
In the comb I saw a couple of eggs, uncapped larvae, and capped brood. There was worker brood and drone brood. The caps on the drone brood stuck out quite a bit further than the capped worker brood. There was also clear fluid, which I am assuming was nectar and I saw some pollen stores. Since I saw brood in the comb I felt that I didn’t need to pull out each of the bars.
One of the things I learned during this inspection is that the bees do not like when I use the brush to try to persuade them to move. I don’t blame them for being annoyed by it, I would be unhappy if someone was pushing me around. They seemed much happier when I very slowly put the bars back in and gave them a little time to get out of the way. It takes more time, but leaves the bees in a better mood.
This inspection went very well. I was very excited to see all of the stages of the brood and to recognize what they were. I did only spot a few eggs, but I am hoping that is only because they are hard to see on the new white comb. I did not see the queen this time, but since there was evidence of her being there I decided not to pull apart the entire hive looking for her.
I am very happy that I am using the Hive Tracks website to document my beekeeping. Using the website had made note taking so much easier. Hive Tracks even enters the exact weather for the time of the inspection, so I don’t have to think about that. They also create a “to do” list for me with future inspection dates and feeding dates if I am feeding the bees. Adding the GoPro camera this time made documentation even easier and it’s fun to watch.