The Busy Bee

We’re in the Honey!

honey comb 6
The honeybees filling the comb with 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.

smoker 1
Once this flame settles down a little, the smoker is ready to use. The books suggest that you should have more embers than flame.

 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 the box
Billowing smoke into the hive to make the bees more docile

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.

honey comb 1
Honey comb filled with “brood” aka baby bees waiting to be hatched. There is also honey reserves stored that is fed to the baby bees

Honeycomb Production

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!

frame without honey comb
The bees were focused on building the comb exclusively where the queen was first released. You can notice how there is zero production on the frame being held up.

Making Honey

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.

honey comb 3
Honey comb being built on the inner hive cover. This is pure honey inside these combs…and it tastes delicious!

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.

switching the boxes
Switching the bottom and top boxes of the hive to increase honey production, and diminish risk of swarming.

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!!!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Sources:

Delaplane, Keith S. First Lessons in Beekeeping. Hamilton, Ill.: Dadant & Sons, 2007. Print.

One thought on “The Busy Bee

  1. Janie McAndress says:

    OMG that is wonderful. I am saving small jars for you in hopes to get one to take home. It has been so interesting learning about the bees and their society. I thought you were nuts when you first told me about becoming a beekeeper but you made a believer out of me.

    Like

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