We’re in the Honey!
One Month Check-up
A little over a month ago we installed our package of honeybees. Now, it was time to take a peek inside the hive and see what was going on in there. We hadn’t opened the hive since April 7th when we removed the queen box, because we wanted to give them some space to get used to their new digs. The books that we have been reading for guidance all stress the fact that a beekeeper should only crack open the hive on a bright sunny day when a majority of the foragers would be out of the hive taking care of business.
Lighting the Smoker
It was a gorgeous day and we were anxious to see if our honeybees were producing honey as we suspected. We took our hive smoker to the backyard and got down to business. Lighting the pellets that came with the smoker proved to be a little more time consuming than we expected, but once we got a good flame going we were ready to go! We lightly billowed the smoke around the hive and its entrance rather than aggressively applying smoke directly into the hive. The advice we received from other beekeepers was to be gentle with the smoke, because a little can go a long way.
Smoking them out
Hive smokers are used to help make the bees docile while you enter their private area. According to the book First Lessons in Beekeeping, when the bees smell smoke it activates their instincts and they act as though there is a fire near the hive. The result is that the bees become slightly disoriented, and begin eating the honey and subsequently ignoring the beekeeper. They certainly did seem pretty confused by the whole ordeal. When we lifted off the hive covers we were pleased to see that the bees have been hard at work.
Using the hive tool, we lifted out a frame and found exactly what we were hoping for. As you can see from the photo above, there is significant honeycomb production, and in this comb is the brood. The queen bee lays her eggs inside the comb and in 21-24 days, these eggs will hatch and become worker bees or drones. There are also honey reserves found, especially on top of the frames. This will be the first food for the new babies. After the eggs hatch, the worker bees will go back over the empty cells and refill it with their liquid gold!
The honeycomb and honey production in our hive was exclusively formed around the four-five frames where the queen was initially released from her packaging box. There was no comb production on the right side of the hive body, as well as no production in the bottom hive box. The bees, instead, starting making honeycomb on the inside hive cover.
Switching the Hive Bodies
Taking our lessons from First Lessons in Beekeeping, we switched the hive bodies (the bottom and top boxes), so that the frames containing the brood are now on the bottom. According to other beekeepers who use similar hives, honeybees prefer to build their comb upwards – and we noticed this ourselves with the honey comb being built on the inner hive cover. Switching the hive boxes in the spring is also thought to reduce the risk of swarming. After the hive switch, we anticipate that the bees will continue their comb building into the upper box, providing more honey for extraction later in the season.
We’re in the Honey!
We can declare our one-month check on the honeybee hive a success! The bees are clearly keeping busy building the comb and filling it with honey. The Queen Bee is building the brood and nourishing the next generation of honeybees. We won’t open the hive up again for a while so that the bees can get back into their groove without our disturbance. Next time we open it up, we hope to take out a few frames for harvesting! We were able to get a little preview taste of the honey while we were in there….and boy does it taste good!!!
Delaplane, Keith S. First Lessons in Beekeeping. Hamilton, Ill.: Dadant & Sons, 2007. Print.