I went yesterday afternoon to check on my hive – my feelings were a mixture of excitement and trepidation as August kicks into full swing and the clock ticks down on ensuring my colony is strong enough to survive the winter. So as we pulled up on the lawn beside my hive I was relieved to see 1) the hive was still standing and 2) bees were busily flying to and fro at the entrance. So far so good! I took a few moments to watch all of the activity and to examine the ground around the front of the hive. I was looking for crawling bees, bees unable to fly, dead bees and evidence of predators; happily I found nothing of concern at the base of the hive. So with smoker lit, and veil nearby I gently removed the lid and inner cover to find that my bees had been BUSY! So busy that they had started to build comb for honey storage between the top bars of the frames and the lid. Hopefully a good sign that they also had a large stash of honey on the frames.
So I set to work gently breaking the propolis seal around the frames and began to remove them one-by-one to examine them individually. I could not be happier with what I saw! What only a week ago was an empty frame of just foundation and the beginnings of comb being drawn out were now full of nectar and sealed honey! All 5 new frames that I had added just two short weeks ago when I set up my hive were now in play as food storage for the winter! The four frames that came in my box of bees are an established brood nest – the part of the hive that is used for raising baby bees. I easily found my queen as she walked across a frame with her dedicated caregivers in tow. I found so many eggs perfectly centered with one per cell. There was pearly white glistening larvae ranging from the first instar to the fifth. And there was so much beautiful capped brood with each cell being capped over with wax as the larvae enters the pupal stage to later emerge as an adult bee. There was not as much bee bread, or stored fermented pollen, as I would like to see but it is possible with so much reproduction going on that the bee bread is being used as quickly as it is being made. Still, I get concerned that there will not be adequate nutrition to feed the developing larvae if I do not see a good swath of bee bread. So I assessed the young larva to see how much jelly they were bathed in. I am happy to report they were swimming in it – a good indication that resources are good and the larva are not at risk of starvation.
I finished reassembling my hive with the frames in the same order as I had found them and then set to work cleaning off all that extra comb the bees had added outside of the frames. Not a bad job as I got to enjoy a little of that delicious comb honey myself. I also shared it with my toddler who happily slurped it up, dancing around as he ate it and commenting that is was “yummy” – high praise from a two year old! I was amazed to see that a lot of the broken comb was already empty – the workers had been busily collecting it while I worked as they do not want any to go to waste. I was also careful to not spill any honey or nectar outside of the hive as I do not want to attract another colony of bees that could rob my colony of all of its resources.
Another week has gone by and I have another hive check under my belt. I am pleased with the progress and feeling hopeful that the colony will be strong enough to face the changing seasons.