Things have been getting better in the backyard since we put up the screen across the perennial garden. There are fewer bees flying low in the yard. I have been able to spend more time out there, which has been good for me and my garden. Now that I am feeling a little more confident, I think it’s time to inspect the hive again.

I invested in a new bee suit. After reading many, many reviews I decided to get the Ultra Breeze Bee Suit from From what I had read it seemed that this suit was the best for me. Out of all of the reviews, there was one that said they got stung. However, the sting was on their foot and the person admitted to not wearing proper shoes. The suit has three layers of fabric which makes it difficult for the bees to sting you while you are wearing it.

The smoker is a tool that I have not invested much time or energy into learning about or using. Early on the bees seemed to be fine without me using the smoke. As the colonies grew, that changed. I have spent some time learning about lighting the smoker. I found a video online from that showed the beekeeper lining the smoker with cardboard before lighting the paper and adding the fuel. The night before I was planning to inspect the hive, I gave it a try. The smoker worked well for about 45 minutes, which is a lot longer than I have gotten it to work in the past.

A few days before the inspection I was out in the yard watching the hives. I noticed right away that the Langstroth colony was kicking the drones out. I spent some time watching the top bar hive too. They had also begun to remove the drones. The bees seem to be starting their winter preparation early this year. I spoke with another beekeeper and she said that she is witnessing the same thing. She feels that the bees are letting us know that winter may be coming early this year.

Armed with my new bee suit and smoker technique, it was time to open the hive. I decided to inspect the top bar hive in my yard first. The colony is smaller than the other and they have always been less aggressive. I made sure that the day was a sunny and warm one.

Once I was inside the hive, I went through each bar with comb on it. I was carefully looking at everything. I wanted to see what was going on and I was looking for signs of mites. The bees seemed very calm and that made me feel even more confident.

This colony didn’t get very big and now the brood pattern is even smaller. They also have very little honey, capped or uncapped. Although I have never spotted the queen in this colony, there are signs of her. I found fresh eggs, larvae, and some capped brood. The capped brood is all worker brood at this point.

I did a visual check for mites this time. I took time really looking at each bar and the bees on it. I did not find any evidence of varroa mites. I have not done any other mite tests. I spoke with a customer service rep at Bee Thinking and he had suggested using tape on the bottom of the hive and see what shows up. If I feel a need to, I may try that the next time I get into the hive.

Since the bees have very little honey, I have decided to feed them. There is still empty space in the hive since the colony stayed small, so it will be easy to get the feeders in. I will also be adding essential oils to the sugar water. I will be adding lemongrass oil and spearmint oil. I have heard that some people also add tea tree oil, but I will start with these two and see how things go. I also did some checking into what ratios I need to use to feed the bees. What I found was that in the fall people tend to feed 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. At this point these bees seem to need all the help that they can get.

The new bee suit worked very well. I didn’t get stung at all. I felt so much more comfortable this time. I am feeling confident enough that I am ready to inspect the other top bar hive.