Saturday, September 7, 2013

Drone Comb? This Time of Year?

Until yesterday, I hadn't done any inspections inside the hive for two weeks. When I opened it up yesterday, I saw that there was an awful lot of drone comb -- at least two bars of it. I really hadn't been expecting that now that nighttime temperatures have started dropping to the 40's.

I also noticed that the queen was laying eggs in the honey area and a bar that had barely been started two weeks ago was nearly fully built out. There were also lots of eggs and brood in the worker comb. Could they be running out of space? Is that why they're raising so much drone comb -- in preparation for a swarm?  On the other hand, the brood area is still filled with lots of brood and eggs; it hasn't been backfilled with honey, so that has to be a good sign that they're sticking around, right?

Lots of drone comb and a tiny bit of capped honey near the bar

Along the edges of a couple bars, I saw some larvae in cells that looked like they might have been queen cups, but I'm not entirely sure if they actually were. I was hoping they weren't because I was still seeing lots of eggs. Queens are supposed to stop laying prior to swarming, right? However, this morning, I found out that the key phrase in the previous sentence is supposed to stop, but most people find that they don't really stop.

This is the problem with reading about beekeeping. All the books discuss ideal situations. Nobody talks about the weird things that happen in reality. So now I'm on edge, planning another inspection mid-week just in case. I know I sound obsessed with the idea of swarming, but this past spring, I talked to a number of people who told me their hives swarmed about this time of year. Now I'm paranoid, of course, because I just have one hive. If I had two, I could adjust, but now I'm dependent on this one making it through the winter. (Ok, let's forget the fact that I still plan to order two more in the spring, I still want this one to make it.) Urgh. I feel caught in a cycle of inaction and indecision. Will they or won't they? Do I or don't I?

A couple of inspections ago, I noticed that there wasn't any capped honey at all and very little uncapped honey for that matter. To help them put up stores, I've been feeding a 2-1 sugar syrup since then. The thought was that the lower water content would make it easier to cap, and they would be less likely to swarm than if I fed them a simple 1-1 syrup. Yesterday, I was gratified to see that there was quite a bit of uncapped honey and even some capped honey along the tops of the bars, but still not enough for the winter.

Klutzy me, I accidentally broke some capped honeycomb off one of the bars. It just about broke my heart to see that hard-gotten honey pour out into the hive like that. I put the comb by the bee feeder, though, and they cleaned it right up. The wreckage did tick them off a bit, though, at the time.

So at the end of the inspection, I decided that I wouldn't wait so long for the next inspection. Also, I plan to keep feeding a 2-1 syrup as long as they'll take it so that they can continue putting away stores. Plus, I added one more bar between the brood and honey areas because I can tell by the "sweat sock" smell that they're bringing in goldenrod nectar, and the queen seems to be crossing the honey barrier looking for space. Even though it seems late in the season to be adding bars, I figure it probably won't do too much harm either. If they don't build on it, I guess I can always take it out before closing up for winter.

Fingers crossed that I haven't screwed up too much.

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