Bee Health Check

It’s been 3 weeks since we stole the honey from our bees. After the trauma we put them through (and they put us through) we’ve left each other alone to settle down to a normal bee/human existence. We knew we had to follow-up with at least a quick peek into the hives to make sure the beetle traps were working and that we hadn’t done something stupid like moving the queen into the honey super, but we figured we should wait until we had a chance to get a few more pointers from the experts.

On Sunday our beekeeper club had a field day so we went along and watched the apiarist do his thing. We got a few pointers and decided the time was right to open back up our hives and have a look.

Hive 1 is the hive that we thought had the most beetles. Because of that we used not only the standard oil trap, we used a fancy mini-frame that is supposed to trap the blasted things. The oil trap caught about 6, the mini-frame caught about 15. This proved the traps are working and that the infestation isn’t horrible. Both traps were cleaned and reinserted into the hive.

Small Hive Beetle caught in a trap

What we found in both hives were strong, healthy colonies making lots of healthy babies (no diseases evident) and collecting lots of honey. We were amazed at how much building had been going on in Hive 1. That’s the hive that had really messy comb so new frames with new foundation had been used. Those poor bees had to rebuild all the comb in their honey super before they could store any.

We also put a new frame with foundation into their brood box to give the queen some new space. Here’s what she’s done with that new frame in 3 weeks. The top, white cells are honey stores. The next layer is larvae. The bottom golden bits are capped brood cells. Any day now those bees will hatch and start collecting nectar and making honey. Go bees go!

Frame with new foundation after 3 weeks in brood box

Look at the little baby bees – larvae to be precise – in the combs. Good Queen, nicely done.

Bee larvae in comb

Here’s a frame that was placed in the super after we stole the honey. The foundation was brand new, no comb built up on it. In 3 weeks the comb is complete, nectar is being stored and completed honey cells are capped.

Frame with new foundation after 3 weeks in honey super

The next photo shows what happened to the brood frame we moved from the brood box to the honey super. The brood would have hatched and then the bees converted the cells to honey cells. You can tell it’s had brood in it by the dark colour of the comb. Honey from this frame will be a little darker, but taste exactly the same as from the other frames.

Old brood frame after 3 weeks in honey super

If we had our own extractor I would have been hard pressed to stop Frank from trying to harvest more honey. Some of the honey cells in the centre of the supers are almost “done”. When a frame is 75 % capped, you can harvest. But the outside frames still have a lot of space so it’s not like the bees will get bored and restless if we don’t harvest so we’ll give them a few more weeks of slave labour before we rob them again. It’s just nice to see how far progressed they are in such a short amount of time.

Honey Frame after only 3 weeks in the hive

Both hives are really healthy. The 2nd hive has its 2nd super and nectar is being stored and converted to honey in both supers. The 2nd hive had more beetles in its trap (it only has the oil trap) but I don’t think there were enough to be a problem. We might buy a second trap (or make one) but, even without it, the bees are keeping the beetles in check.

It was quite reassuring to go to the field day at our beekeeper club. We met a couple of different newbies who, like us, have only had bees for a few weeks. One guy took a captured swarm and he’s got a big problem with chalkbrood. That’s a fungal infection that kills the larvae before they hatch. Not good. We saw an example of it on the field day and we found absolutely none of it in our hives. The other newbie bought a new hive and is waiting (and waiting ) for it to build up to get strong enough to support a honey super and start making honey. We’re miles ahead of both of those guys and will probably be on our second (or 3rd) harvest before they get their first.

Thank you Matt for selling us your industrious bees.

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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6 Responses to Bee Health Check

  1. Your bees are really doing well, which is good to see. I think you are lucky because you have much better weather over there than we do, and ours have suffered so much in the rain, we don’t have any honey this year at all and many beekeepers in the UK are in the same boat!!

  2. I’m loving reading the bee stories. And the photos are amazing.

    • I’m really pleased with the photos considering there’s no time for “lights, camera, action”. I don’t carry a camera every time we go down to the bees and bee care is the focus, not to bee photography so it’s about speed, not precision!

  3. I loved your pictures of the bees feeding the larvae.

    • Thanks, I really like them it as well. What I especially liked was that out in the garden standing by the bee hive I could see the larvae, but not very clearly. Inside, on my computer, it is much clearer. Digital photography is pretty great.

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