A bee inspection
Russell (my friend who got me started with the bees) came over after Christmas to help me do a thorough inspection of the bees. You won’t be surprised to hear that the night before I had a dream that we opened up the hive and found that all the bees had flown away and the frames were all full of cobwebs! Nothing like a bit of anxiety…bad mother…bad beekeeper….
As you can see from the photos above, the bees had not left home. Do you like my cute little beekeeper Tara? I should say that all these photos, including heaps of very close up shots, were taken by Sam. He was wearing no protective gear at all and had no trouble putting his face and my camera right up next to the bees. I can picture him keeping bees when he is older – he is so calm around them and such a natural. I love imagining him do this as an adult, perhaps with his own kids.
Ok here are some explanations now of what we were doing. Starting with the photo collage above: in the second photo on the left you can see us inspecting one of the beetle traps. Heaps of hive beetles which the clever bees have managed to herd down these little slots I cut in the bottom of the box. The beetles fall into the trap which I have filled with diatomaceous earth which coats them and suffocates them (or something like that) – and it is not toxic to the bees or to the humans consuming the honey later on. The photo on the top right shows how industrious the bees have been with building little frames of wax on the backing sheet. Into these frames they will put nectar, the queen will lay eggs, they will feed the larvae, etc, etc. In the bottom right photo you can see how we already have quite a few frames that are full of honey.
This is a good example of one of those “full” frames. At the top you can see lots of cells that have been filled with honey and sealed off with a whitish looking wax. In the lower right side of the frame you may be able to see some cells that are capped with a yellowish seal. These have larvae in them. The queen has laid an egg, the bees have filled it with food and sealed each one off. When they hatch, the larvae will eat their way out of that cell. Over time that whole frame will be used for honey and will be ready for harvesting once it has all been sealed off with that white wax. I could then just slice it up and have it as honey comb, or use the extractor to remove the honey (after slicing off the top layer of wax). But that is another journey I am yet to take.
The frame in the foreground of the picture above is full of honey (but not yet sealed). The bees will not leave this frame alone. They are guarding their honey and also trying to eat as much as possible. The smoke makes them rush to eat as much honey as they can so they can carry it away with them if they have to set up a new home. The frame in the background shows the new structure that the bees have created on the base wax sheet. Isn’t the colour difference amazing? – the pollen effect I guess.
This last photo is me putting the boxes back together. The box is heavy with all the honey…and the bees keep crawling all over my hands. You can see why it is almost impossible to avoid squashing a few bees every time you go to have a look. Every time you look it also apparently sets the hive back a week or two. They like everything in their own order and I guess the impact of the smoke and the disturbance takes all their energy for quite a few days. On this inspection we did not see the queen (more anxiety for me!). We did see larvae which was an indication that she had been there at least 8 days ago. I will be doing another inspection in the next few days to look for evidence of the queen, if not the queen herself. I think I will be more confident getting in there this time. It gets easier each time. We had quite a large “audience” with visiting relatives looking over our shoulders and two dogs lying at our feet. Russell was the only one who got stung this time.