Fifth Hive Inspection

photographs and text by Sharon Kitchens

Here’s what my bee mentor Deborah and I found this time…

Queen cups found at the bottom of one frame

Festooning (bees hanging onto each other in chains is called)

Drone brood. Drones are male honey bees, they are larger than worker bees (so much so they can be mistaken for queens – except they are fuller and queens longer) and cannot sting. Their sole purpose is for mating with the queen (worker bees collect nectar, clean the hive…). As the weather cools the drones will be kicked out of the hive (and they will die). *Varroa mites, a huge problem for beekeepers, live in drone cells because they are bigger than those of the worker bees = more room to live in while feeding (drones also take longer to develop than worker bees = more time in the the cells). Deborah recently attended a conference where she learned commercially bought frames (like mine from a local supplier) have foundation with unnaturally large cells (made of beeswax or wax) so it could be by making our own (we are going to when I split my hives in the spring  – assuming they are able to winter well) with smaller (natural size as bees have in the wild) cells could make them less attractive to mites. **I haven’t got the first clue how to do this, but with Deborah as my mentor I will learn! ***During the next hive inspection (probably late September) we will look for symptoms of varroosis (varroa mites) by placing a sheet of paper with some sticky substance on/under the bottom board of each colony for a few days and then count the mites. I’ll write more on this when we do it and by which time I’ll have reread all my materials.

Honey, honey…isn’t it beautiful. I will not be extracting honey this year as the bees will only have enough to carry them through winter.* This is generally true for most first year hives.

One hive is stronger than the other, because the weaker colony had to replace their queen shortly after being installed (a process I let happen naturally as that is how I am practicing beekeeping).

Editor’s note: Sharon is documenting her entire Birds & Bees experience on her blog Delicious Musings and The Maine is pleased to repost some of her adventures and mis-adventures in raising chickens and keeping bees for the first time. See the original post here.