Thursday, September 4, 2014

Inspection Notes: Feeling like the worst beek ever

The goldenrod is in full swing now. Lots of Japanese knotweed, Joe Pye weed, and asters as well. However, as of last week, I still wasn't seeing a lot of honey being put into storage, so I started feeding the girls a little (about 3 quarts for all the colonies except Peach who got none and Austeja who took only 2) because for the most part, I wasn't seeing any stores or much brood. It seems to have made a difference in what I saw in the hives this past Tuesday. So I've decided to check on them every day and feed, feed, feed until I feel comfortable going into winter.

My daughter and I went for a hike yesterday not too far my house.
The fall flowers were spectacular.
I feel like the worst beek ever because I really got sidetracked by some consulting jobs that I took on this spring/summer, company, and vacations. Except for some frantic hive building and splitting, my poor bees were really neglected this year. Perhaps if I'd coddled them more post split, the colonies would be a lot bigger by now. However, I really didn't feed very much, and a dearth hit while I was away on vacation for two weeks, so they haven't really built much comb since their splits. Currently, they each have about 8 combs apiece, except Peach which has 9 and is building a 10th.

Unfortunately, this fall is proving to be just as hectic as spring and summer, and I've been procrastinating when it comes to taking care of the bees. It's been months, and I still haven't made a roof for Peach or Persephone. I still need to build a platform for the nucs to sit on. I still haven't even finished painting Persephone or Josephine (the empty Warre). My littlest one starts preschool a couple days a week soon. Fingers crossed, I'll have some time coming up soon, but I'm not counting on it. All this busy-ness is really making me think more seriously about getting into Warres next year.

Anyway, despite my neglect, the bees, if not thriving exactly, are getting along fine for the most part.

Bubblegum -- Lots of eggs and brood. Lots of pollen. Starting to put away honey/syrup in the honey area. As an aside, I've begun dying my syrup ungodly unnatural colors this year like blue, green, and red. I figure that if the dye from an M&M factory didn't wipe out all the bees in France, a bit of food coloring isn't going to kill mine either. (Ok, it's probably not great for them either, but maybe some hyperactivity would be a good thing this fall. More red?) I did this because I was curious to see how the syrup was being used/stored. For example, how much of what was being stored was honey vs. syrup? Would they store syrup patches all by itself? Or would it be jumbled together with the honey? Would the girls move the syrup around from comb to comb? Etc. Etc. Inquiring minds want to know. Anyway, the photo below shows what I found.

Blue "honey"
You can see a bit of blue in the comb, but considering how much syrup they received, it doesn't seem like they stored much of it. My guess is that they've been using most of it for brood or just to support their daily caloric needs. BTW, in case you're interested, for the most part, it does seem that they store syrup and nectar in different cells. Also, it does appear to me that the honey and syrup are stored in groupings of adjacent cells (at least three cells in a grouping), though they don't mind storing them on the same comb. questions arise. I can envision a series of experiments on this in the future.

Also, I gave her a quart of syrup on Tuesday. By Wednesday, only 1/3 - 1/2 of it was gone. I guess she's finding nectar and preferring that.

Persephone & Austeja -- A lot of pollen & a little bit of honey starting to be stored away. Lots of brood, though. I feel like some heavy feeding should see these two through the winter -- if they'll take it.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Persephone had consumed only about 1/4 quart of syrup. Austeja -- well, it turns out I'd forgotten to give her any syrup. So I added a jar on Wednesday, and I guess she felt slighted because as soon as I opened her up, a guard shot out and stung me.

Comb from Austeja

Hippolyte -- Such a disappointment. No stores. Just a few measly honey bands on the brood bars. Very little brood. I was starting to think that a regicide and a combine were in her near future. There were so few bees, but I still couldn't find the queen. There were some nice eggs, though, so she had to be in there. I decided to give her a lot of syrup (1 quart jar and a half-gallon jar.) I figured that if I didn't see some real improvement in 3 days time, the queen's rule was going to come to a very abrupt end.

Unimpressive brood comb from Hippolyte

Wednesday afternoon, the entire quart jar was empty and the half-gallon jar was about 1/4 empty. So maybe this colony was just really, really hungry. I'm still waffling on the idea of combining her though. Even if she gets intensive feeding, I'm still not entirely sure she'll be able to build up enough strength in time for winter. What do you guys think? Any thoughts on this one???

 In any case, her reprieve has been extended until next week.

Peach -- I love this colony! I saved her for last, and I'm so glad I did because she let me end the inspection on a high note. Every single comb was filled with bees or honey, and she was busy starting a new comb. Just the fragrance standing when standing near her is amazing. I truly hope she makes it through to spring. It would break my heart to lose her.

Her numbers are good, too, because she's begun bearding. I've actually had to open another entrance for her.

Honey, honey, honey!

Some young'uns
Start of a new comb
The one other thing I did for all the hives was move any empty bars near the entrances to the back. I also moved any partial combs to the end. I know, I know, I should have done this a while ago, but better late than never.

How are your hives doing?


  1. Don't beat yourself up too much, I think you are doing just fine. The thing about bees is that they do know how to take care of themselves and sometimes we meddle more than we should. It seems to me that the only reason to inspect in top bars is to make sure the queen/hive is healthy and to make sure there is no cross comb. It sounds like the latter is not an issue for you and for the most part, your queens are healthy (except Hippolyte). Last year (my first), I was in the hive almost every week. This year, it's been more like every 3rd week and just for the reasons above and my bees are mostly fine. I probably won't get to take any honey this fall, but my hives are alive and seemingly happy and maybe I'll get a harvest in the spring. We're heading towards an early fall here in Colorado, so I think one more inspection before the end of the month and then I'll leave them alone. I wouldn't wait too long on the combine decision because if you do go that route (and I think that would be a good one) you want time for them to get adjusted before winter sets in.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. That's a good tip about not waiting too long to combine/giving them time to adjust. The weather here has been really nice, and the 30-day forecast is predicting temps in the 70's until the end of the month. That's why I'm giving Hippolyte a short reprieve (1 week). I'm thinking that if she picks up, I'll still have time to feed. This will sound sappy, but I feel rather sentimental about each of my queens because they really are mine and not ones that I purchased, and they're the first ones produced here with me. So I'm giving her one last chance.

      That's great that you can inspect every third week. I was going in every other week in the spring, but that's why they ended up swarming. Maybe you have some magic pheromone that draws the bees to you. ;-)


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!