We did an inspection with Bruce (okay, Bruce did the inspection and we watched/helped) of our 23 hives on Tuesday. The main objective was to ensure they were queen right and disease free.
All were queen right and had brood – in fact, some had a lot of brood. We’ve been having sunny, warm weather lately and it looks like the queens have decided it is spring regardless of what the calendar thinks. There were even a couple of drones and drone cells in with all of those girls.
Of course with 23 hives, it couldn’t all be perfect, could it?
One colony had a small patch of chilled brood. This happens when brood can’t be kept warm enough by the bees. The grub dies and the cell turns patchy white & black (or that’s what ours looked like). The affected cells were on the outer edge of the brood (a couple frames in from the edge of the box) and the rest of the brood was fine so we didn’t worry about it.
Several hives had some chalk brood out front. This really worried me because I’m a newbie and easily worried. Bruce totally ignored it and said it was fine because a) it was minimal (sure looked like a lot to me), b) a strong hive can deal with chalk brood (a weak hive probably would need feeding) and c) it’s coming to spring so the hives – pretty strong anyway – will just get stronger.
One hive had European Foulbrood (EFB). I just thought I was worried about chilled and chalk brood. The reality of EFB in one colony, which could spread through the apiary got me really worried. Again, Bruce was pretty non-plussed by it all. He’s going to drop by some OTC with instructions for us on how to sprinkle it over the brood. Seems even EFB is to be taken in stride (AFB would be a very different matter – but it’s not AFB). I’ll post soon about our EFB experience.
Three hives were deemed by Bruce to be weak. One of those was “treated” in 2 ways:
1) moving a frame of capped brood into the weak hive’s brood box and
2) moving the super of a strong hive on top of the weak brood box. That super had a bunch of bees in it so was separated from the brood with a single sheet of newspaper. The bees will eat through the paper allowing the bees from the 2 different colonies to get used to each other before they come into contact with each other. The end result will be a whole lot more field bees to feed up this weak little colony.
Another weak hive was fed with its own honey. It had a frame of capped honey and Bruce sliced through some of the cappings to get the honey flowing and slipped it into the brood box next to a frame of brood. This will cause the bees to eat up and supercharge them which will stimulate the hive to grow.
Here’s the front of that cut-honey-hive 2 days later. A lot of the comb was ejected from the hive. Why???
The 3rd weak hive was left to its own devices to get stronger as spring flows come on.
A couple of the hives were so strong that we added supers for them to start storing honey. And it’s the middle of August. There really isn’t a winter dormancy here. It looks like we’re in for a big summer of honey.
It was fantastic for us to have such an expert in the apiary to learn from. I’m looking forward to gaining a wealth of experience quickly this way. Soonish I’ll post more about the difference between my experience as a backyard beekeeper compared to what a professional beekeeper does.