Bees: A Closer Look

A look inside my first hive.

I started my beekeeping hobby in June 2013 and have been blogging about it periodically. If you’re interested in reading the other posts in this series, follow the Adventures in Beekeeping tag. Keep in mind that the most recent posts always appear first on this blog.

I did my third hive inspection on my first beehive the other day. My primary goals were to check the overall health of the hive, make sure there was fresh brood (unhatched bees), verify that the queen was present and healthy, see how far along the bees had come in filling the 20 frames in the hive, and replace one of the frames in the lower hive box with a drone frame.

I accomplished all of these things except spotting the queen. The hive seems very healthy, though, and the bees seem to be multiplying nicely, so I can assume that the queen is in there somewhere. The presence of several supersedure cells, however, hinted that the queen may be aging or that the bees might not have confidence in her continued viability. I find this odd because the bees came in a nuc I bought locally and the man who sold it to me installed a new queen not long before I bought it. So I’m not sure what’s going on there.

You can see a supersedure cell, along with quite a few drone cells, in the photo below. The supersedure cell is the elongated cell near the center of the image. The drone cells are the cells with the domed caps. Also in the photo are cells of capped and uncapped brood and stored honey. It’s interesting to note that I shot this closeup with my iPhone’s camera; I’m pretty surprised it was able to focus so closely — I did not zoom in, although I did crop the image.

Closeup of Brood Comb

Eight of the upper hive box’s ten frames were full of partially capped honey. One frame was in progress and the other frame was completely untouched. The sheer quantity of stored honey and the speed at which these bees seem to produce convinced me to add the Ross Rounds frames I’d assembled on July 4. I returned the next morning and added it atop a queen excluder and spacer with exit. With luck, they’ll fill and cap those frames before the end of the season.

More on drone frames in another post.

4 thoughts on “Bees: A Closer Look

  1. I’m loving your posts about the bees. Never a hobby I had considered before, but I’ve been fascinated since I started reading about yours. I’ve talked to a few people locally who told me that it was a bit late to start this year, but I plan to start next year.

    • It is a little late. The trouble is, they have to produce and/or store enough honey and pollen to get them through the winter.

      I started one hive in the beginning of June and the other by capturing a swarm at month-end. I was told that anything past May is late. I don’t expect to take honey from either one of them (although I did add the Ross Rounds to my first hive with my fingers crossed). I’ll likely have to feed them over the winter, too.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that it might not be too late if you’re willing to supplement their food stores over the winter. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be for them to get established, especially if there isn’t much flowering for them to gather pollen and nectar from. A more difficult task will be finding bees; very few bees are sold this time of year. That’s why I was so happy to catch that swarm.

  2. Now that I got that cleared out of the way I want to comment on you’re bee hive picture which I find very fascinating.

    What DO bees do if their queen dies off. Do they go in a blind panic or do they continue their assigned jobs the best they can without her?

    Do they instead work extra hard to insure supplies for hard itmes?

    • If there are freshly laid eggs, the workers will attempt to raise them as queens. If they succeed, one queen will take over. If they fail, the colony will fail because the workers cannot lay eggs and all will die off within a month or two.

      In answer to your off-topic question posted on this blog post (which I deleted because it was completely off topic), there wasn’t anything new being added to the discussion and it was becoming a chore to moderate. And there IS a contact link at the top of every single page on this blog. Not sure why you didn’t see it.

What do you think?