Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What TBHs look like after 30 days without inspection

Recently, rain, cold weather, work, birthday parties, and chicken-related jobs have all conspired against me. As a result, my TBHs haven't been inspected for a full month. But today was a glorious, sunny 72 degrees F. Not willing to let another day pass without peeking in the hives, I burned through work and took the rest of the day off to spend some quality time with the girls.

To keep the coop costs under budget, we had to finish up certain things ourselves like adding hardware cloth around the run, a chicken door, run door, nest boxes, etc. Not difficult tasks, but time-consuming. 

Primrose, scratching up some tasty treats

Olive, taking a break

Fully expecting to see a lot of cross-comb, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the bees had cooperated and built things out beautifully straight. It's so nice when they actually do things by the book. Here's a quick rundown of what I found:

Persephone: This colony has settled down considerably since she requeened herself a couple of times last year, but I still want to get rid of her because she's apt to go after my husband. A beek I know lost all of her bees over winter. She has a farm, and doesn't mind bees that are slightly testy since she suits up completely. So I made a shook swarm for her today. I also donated a queen cell from Celestia to speed up the re-queening process. Hopefully, the bees won't tear that cell down.

Celestia: Other than the ant infestation under the roof, this colony was the highlight of my morning. She was bursting with bees and had begun making swarm cells. One bar with swarm cells went to Persephone. Unwilling to attempt finding the queen, I did a 50/50 split with the rest of the colony, so Hippolyte has bees again as well. The only bad part is that I haven't had a chance yet to retrofit Hippolyte with insulation and a hinged roof. So I'll have to decide if that's something I want to try while it's full of bees or wait until it's empty again.

Freakin' ants. Yuck.
The back of the hive. Bees are bubbling out.
The first bar I pulled out. This hive is definitely going to have swarm cells in it.

Look at that brood pattern!

Bubblegum: She's not quite as far along as Celestia, but she's definitely getting close. In another week or so, I expect to see some swarm cells in this one as well.

A few queen cups getting started
Peach: This nuc was weak during the last inspection, which was unsurprising given how weak she was going into winter. However, the donated brood seems to have made a difference. She's picked up considerably since then. Although she's not anywhere close to swarming, she should continue to do reasonably well.

Buttercup: A month ago, I spotted a tiny queen and small entourage. I should have combined her with another hive (maybe Peach), but I wanted to see what would happen if I just let things play out. Given that it was already April at that time, I figured they might have a chance since stuff was blooming, and I was curious.

My hopefulness has given way to suspicion over the last couple of weeks because the amount of activity surrounding the nuc has lessened considerably. My fears turned out to well-grounded since this hive died out. However, last night, I talked with my neighbor who also keeps bees, and he also experienced a few smaller hives that made it all the way through winter only to die out in late March/April.

Elsa: Elsa continues to do very well. Given the amount of space she has, she's not as full as the nucs, but with 20 bars of brood, she is getting there as well. Lots of drones and some queen cups started. I gave her some empty bars to build on and will continue to monitor.

I don't remember finding Elsa's new queen last year. 
Turns out she's blonde, which was a surprise since all of her previous queens have been black.

So that's all for my inspection notes. As long as the weather holds out, I'll check on the splits in 3 days to figure out which ones have queens. Fingers crossed for continued sunshine (or at least some fair weather on Friday).


  1. Okay, I love reading your stuff, but I need you to draw circles around the queens in these pictures! I know nothing about hives and I'm goo lazy to look stuff up. :-)

    1. Well, you could research stuff if you weren't busy working until midnight every day. Just tell your team to stop emailing you and get it done. :-P LOL!

      Just for you, the photo has been updated. :-)

      BTW, I love reading your blog, too. When can we hope for a new post? Your devoted readers are waiting! :-)

  2. and "goo" is the new way to spell "too." Sigh.

    1. Works for me. I kind of just imagined you in a puddle on the couch. :-)

  3. I don't think you are busy enough and should get some goats. ;-) That's an amazing brood pattern in Celestia! Sorry to hear about Buttercup. She is my favorite of all the princesses. Too bad she could survive the fireswamp, but not the cold spring.

    That's a lot of ants! I usually have a few hear and there, but not an infestation like that! I tried using cinnamon, but they ants just ignored it, so I figure if the colony can't handle ants, then I'll let that one pass.

    I'm going to try to do fewer inspections this year to see if that makes a difference, but I'm always worried about cross combing. So far so good. At least in all my hives this year, I'm not starting from scratch, so it's easier to pop an empty frame between two drawn out ones. It's the honey section that I usually have problems with, but I can look in there without disturbing the brood usually.

    1. Goats! I wish!

      "Too bad she could survive the fireswamp, but not the cold spring." LOL! Very clever! I see what you did there! Well, there are plans for a split for Buttercup, so it happens that nuc is only mostly dead. ;-)

      Yeah, cinnamon doesn't work for me either. Vaseline and orange oil are the only things that have proven effective for me.

      Glad your hives are doing well without interference. I think you're onto something with fewer inspections. If nothing else, this past month has shown me that some neglect is totally ok, probably even a good thing. Most of my bars are wedged or have 1" of comb on them leftover from previous harvests, so that probably helps keep things on track.

  4. I have two hives that have ants and tried the cinnamon but doesn't seem to work. Silly question but where do you put the Vaseline?

    1. My hives are up on stands that have legs. I smear Vaseline very liberally around the legs to create a barrier that the ants can't cross. Even through heat and cold, I can go at least 2 years before having to re-coat.

      You've met Kit, right? He props up his stand legs on bricks that are centered in a dish of water. Another friend of mine does something similar, but uses motor oil instead of water in the dish. As long as the dish is kept topped up, that works well, too.


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