Saturday, September 21, 2013

Inspection Notes: Comb Collapse

Inspection Date: 9/20

It's been 7 days since the last inspection, but I had put two new bars (Bars 9 and 17) in last week, and I wanted to see if they had been drawn. Bar 9 was completely drawn out. Bar 17 was about 2/3 drawn. The bees had started two new bars (21 and 22) ones as well.

BTW, if you read my last inspection notes, I've changed from sticky notes to pushpins as a visual cue because they don't fall off quite so easily. But I don't have as many colors to choose from, so i've modified my color coding system:

  • Yellow: Honey
  • Green: Worker brood
  • Blue: Drone brood
  • White: Empty bar
  • Red: Queen cells

I noticed that egg laying is still going on, but at a vastly reduced rate. Most of the comb is being given over to honey storage. I still don't have any completely capped combs, but it looks like the girls are working on it. At any rate, there is more capped comb than last week.

Bar 10, shown above, was a real bummer. It used to be a full bar, but the rest of the comb had dropped off. I'm not sure why. The weather wasn't particularly hot this week. Neither was the comb super new. You can see how the girls are already trying to rebuild it.

Peeking into the hive, I saw the fallen comb standing straight up, and the bees had started attaching it to the hive walls. I debated whether or not to take it out. It seemed ok, but in the end, I decided to remove it to avoid any future complications that I, in my newbie ignorance, could not possibly foresee or imagine.

Fallen comb

I've always been bad in crises. I do not deal well with cuts or blood or puke or anything nasty. Sticking my hand into a hive to pull out a fallen comb sort of counts as a crisis to me. I wasn't entirely sure I had the wherewithal for it. Turns out, I have nerves of steel, at least in cases involving bees.

Cleaning up fallen comb still isn't the easiest or pleasantest task, though. The comb is crawling with bees, so just finding a place to grab onto without squishing them is impossible. Then, when you gently, oh, so gently, try to grab the comb, there is nothing to hold onto. It just collapses between your fingers into mush, spilling sticky honey everywhere and attracting more bees. And the bees are pissed.

After two fruitless efforts, I hit on the idea of super big salad tongs to grasp and lift the comb out, a tool which worked beautifully, I might add. (You'll forgive me if there are no action shots of this process. Capturing the moment wasn't really top of mind for me.)  I'm even considering packing the tongs into my hive kit as a "just in case" tool.

Multipurpose salad tongs. Who knew?

I cut out a little bit of the capped honey so that my husband and kids could taste it (amazing!), but the rest of it went into a bowl for the bees to clean out.

By this point, of course, the bees were tremendously annoyed, so rather than continuing the inspection, closing up for the day seemed a more prudent course of action. I'll use the observation window to check their progress on rebuilding that collapsed comb, but this might even be the last inspection for the season. I'll keep feeding them, but they seem to be doing all right. No reason to keep harassing them, I think.

Bowl full of bees. In some parts of the world, fried bees are a delicacy,
but I'm good with just the honey.

I really did take only the tiniest bit of honey -- about a cup of it. It was awesome, though. Real honey and not capped sugar syrup. So yummy on a slice of toast. My oldest son is already licking his lips in anticipation of a spring/summer harvest!

A bee in hand is worth...
well, I'm not sure exactly, but I've got a lot of them.

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