Yesterday we opened our 2 hives for the first time. We’ve given them (almost) a week to settle down and they seem very happy where they are. We wanted to do an initial visual check as to the state of play in each hive before deciding on what next steps might be required to harvest honey and manage the colonies.
We knew one was full of honey. Not only did the darned thing weigh a ton but you can smell the honey when you get near the hive. We also knew the 2nd hive was weaker – whether that was because of a problem or a recent swarming or an old queen, we didn’t know. So we geared up, lit the smoker, grabbed our tools and went to work.
The lid of the first hive was really hard to remove. Frank pried and scraped and levered and grunted. All the while the bees just buzzed calmly. Seriously, we must have the most Zen bees on the planet. In the entire time we were harassing the bees, only 2 of them ever gave me the indication that they would genuinely enjoy sacrificing their life to plant their stinger in me. The others just keep trying to go about their bee business as best they could. I like my bees.
Eventually the lid came away from the box. Strings of honey stretched from the lid to the hives. Okay, we knew it was full of honey but this was a bit more than we’d expected.
Not much to be done in this hive before we have what we need to extract the honey. Frank closed the lid and moved to the second hive.
This lid popped off easily and exposed a bit of a mess. Not a honey mess, but a beetle mess. We saw 3 roaches and lots of droppings from any number of beetles.
Frank scraped some of the propolis (sort of a caulking produced by bees to fill gaps) off the top of the frames which almost looked like it had been used to contain some of the beetle poo. Whatever, the hive needs some major maintenance. Frank pressed 2 beetle traps into the comb which has spanned the frames. These traps hold normal vegetable oil and are covered so that the bees can’t fall in and drown but the beetles can. I’ve heard that bees actually figure this out pretty quickly and they start driving beetles into the traps. Not roaches though – they’re too big. Hopefully when the small hive beetle population decreases the hive will be able to fight off the roaches. Or maybe we need a different trap.
We ripped some strange mesh off the top of the 2nd hive and threw it away. Bees should be able to get into the lid and this mesh was preventing that (and it was disintegrating) though it did stop them from attaching comb to the lid as they’d done in hive 1. Frank will make a hive mat for each hive which will lay across the top of the frames. The mat is small enough to provide an air gap around the edge. This lets the bees climb around but stops them from building comb and sticking their lid to the frames.
Now that we have some idea of what needs doing, we’ve got a reasonable to-do list to complete before we can harvest the honey. Frank will build a frame box where we can hang honey-laden frames removed from the hives in preparation for honey extraction. We want to buy some new frames plus one extra because the 2nd hive only has 9 frames in a 10 frame box. Finally, we have to arrange to borrow the club’s honey extractor. Once all that’s done we can start removing frames and get a better look at the hive including the brood box and doing a real clean-up.
While we were inspecting our two hives, 2 of our chickens were nowhere to be seen. This is really strange because they are always underfoot. I had suggested locking them in their run but Frank was pretty sure they’d keep their distance. He was right. Only Isabel showed her face. And what a face it was. She gave us a look as if to say, “I always knew humans were insane, now you’ve proven it. Where’s my yogurt?” (I’m confident Isabel ends every thought with that question.)