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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Checking Hives

Last Sunday, I was frustrated because I wanted to get into my beehives. I needed to check on some splits I had done about a month ago, and the sun just wouldn't shine. I waited about an hour, decided to leave, and out came the sun! When you open beehives, you need to have a warm and sunny day. Cooler rainy weather irritates the bees when you open their hive.

When a hive makes it through the winter, and has a LOT of bees in it, you can take a few frames with brood and worker bees, and put them into an empty hive at least 3-5 miles away from the original hive. They will eventually make a new queen and then you have a new hive. If all goes well, it takes about a month for a queen to hatch, mate, and start laying. That's the short version of a split.

So here are some things I discovered with my hives.

See the hive on the left? They are doing something called wash boarding. I took a video but I couldn't get it to download to blogger. I don't know why they are doing this because their hive was full, but not overflowing, it wasn't hot out, and none of the other hives were doing it.

The bees are sitting on the outside of the hive, moving back and forth in little movements, and it looks like they are washing the boards on the hive. I think they do this because they are hot, bored, and crowded. I've had a couple of swarms this week, which was probably this hive.

A swarm happens when a hive gets too crowded. They will make a new queen. The old queen leaves the hive and takes half of the bees with her. There is a difference between a swarm and a split.

Here's a closer pic of the bees "wash boarding."

This is the top of a hive when you open it up. This hive does not have many bees. But it's early in the season and it was a split.

See the frame above the one with the '08' on it and to the right about an inch or two. You'll see some wax and a hole. That's a queen cell. Which is a good sign because this is one of the hives I split.

However, this is a frame that is full of bees, but no brood. You don't have to look for a queen. You know if you have one if you have brood. No brood, no queen. I'll check it again in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping the queen was out getting mated, and on her way back to the hive.

These bees are capping honey. There is absolutely nothing better than honey right from the hive.

Sorry about this blurry pic, it's hard taking them with bee gloves on. This is capped drone cells. Not a good sign. It means there is probably not a queen or she isn't a good laying queen. Drones are male bees. They are basically used for one thing and one thing only. Mating with a queen. You need a few but not a whole hive full. It's the females that do ALL of the work. Drone cells stick out more than regular brood cells and there is no pattern to them. They are scattered all over the frame.

Now this is a great sign of a good laying queen. See all of the capped cells. Inside are baby bees. Brood. If you blow up this pic and look at the top right cells you can see the uncapped larvae. They look like teeny tiny little white pieces of rice, and when they are bigger they look like baby worms.

And the swarm I got a couple of weeks ago, it's doing just fine.

However, I have another story, about another swarm, that didn't go so well. More on it later, as the tale isn't over yet. I spent three hours on it Thursday night, lost hours of sleep over it last night, and I'm going back tomorrow to see if there is any way to save it, if it is still there.

Cindy Bee


  1. yikes...lots o bees...You really love them little bugs dont ya? I am glad they have you to care for them....I like the honey but not the hive

  2. Ahem... RJ... Bees are not Bugs...

    Cindy B... I love you and your bees... I miss you... we need to get together for coffee soon... monday and tuesday I'm on call but might be able to meet for coffee, or maybe you could stop by... or vise versa... we have much to catch up on!

  3. RJ - I don't know why, I haven't figured it out, but I do love them. I don't love how tired I am right now though. It's an exhausting time for a beekeeper.

    Scribe - I miss you to :-( I miss both of you. We do need to get together.

    Cindy Bee

  4. I told you blogger is acting up.. this post never even showed in my blogger dashboard as new. was able to leave a comment on the earlier post lets see if this works....Hugs Birgit

  5. Eye Popping! Love these photos wow your so lucky

  6. I just find your bee posts so interesting. I learn something every time I come here. Hope your other story has a happy ending.


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