We did our first official hive check to see if the hives have queens that are laying eggs and making bees-to-be. The short answer is probably.
The longer answer is that I went through a range of emotions. We’ll start at the beginning. My husband, son, and I were checking the bees. We suited up, got all our paraphenalia together, I got the smoker going (still need practice with that), and got to work. My son was put in the charge of the camera and he did a pretty good job for someone with minimal photographing experience.
Opening the hive
Here I am opening the hive. Actually this is just the lid on the top feeder and the bees won’t come flying out.
Smoking the bees a bit
Here they could come flying out – that’s why I’m sending in a little smoke – it calms them down. Some say the bees think the hive’s tree is on fire and they go and fill up on honey in preparation for leaving. All I know is that it subdues them.
The bees are between the frames to the left.
On this frame the bees have started making comb. The black is the fondation they start with and the white is the bees wax they have added. Lots of bees,yes? There were even more on the next frame, but the pictures weren’t very clear.
- capped brood?
The comb cells that are filled in may be capped brood – that would be baby bees. Maybe not though, I’m new at this. Still, in other parts of this frame we did see teeny tiny larvae, so we’re pretty confident that the queen is laying eggs and bees are growing. That’s really what we wanted to know.
Then we opened the second hive. There were plenty of bees but I didn’t see any capped brood, so I was afraid that the queen might not be laying. Still, they were busy bees.
When I got back to the house I called the treasurer of the bee association we joined, she talked me down. The queen has only been out a week and brood isn’t capped until about a week after the eggs are laid, so I wouldn’t see any capped brood. I went from feeling like a failure as a beekeeper to feeling hopeful again.
When I was looking at the pictures my son had taken I came upon one that made me feel even better. This is a close up of part of a frame from that second hive. In the top right hand corner are some comb cells with little white things in them. I think that is teeny tiny larvae, and that means the queen is laying eggs!
On this same picture you can see some cells that have bright orange inside them. Those cells are filled with pollen. Pretty cool.
So, apparently, in spite of my novice status, the bees are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I may open the hives again next week just to be sure I’m right. And then I’m going to keep my hands off of them for about a month. (maybe).
And, still no stings. Today was close though. The whole family was out picking up trash (our Earth Day activity a little late) and ended up near the bees. They were very active and we were ooing and ahhing and not paying attention to the fact that we were not dressed for bee viewing. We wouldn’t need the veils for just looking at the outside of the hive, but light colored clothing would be a good idea. My son had a red t-shirt and a bee landed on his sleeve – while I was coaxing that bee off I realized I was wearing a maroon shirt and a bee started buzzing around me encouraging me to get away from the hive – then it got caught in my hair… wonders of wonders I didn’t get stung, I probably deserved it.
But what about the squirrel?
This morning I walked into our family room to this site:
It was hanging onto the window screen.
Eventually I gave it a little nudge with a long stick and it scampered down the screen, along the window sill, plopped on the ground very ungracefully and took off.