First Hive Inspection 2013

photographs and text by Sharon Kitchens


This past week I invited experience beekeeper Keith Kettelhut over to help me inspect my “miracle hive” as so appointed by Tony Jadczak, Maine’s apiarist, after surviving a bad Varroa mite infestation last winter. Kettelhut is a member of  Maine’s swarm team.

Turns out my hive was about three weeks away from swarming. Keith could tell, because the hive was crowded and the brood population (by my account of what I’ve witnessed over the past few weeks and evidence of various stages of brood in the hive) was growing at an accelerated rate. This is the time of year when bees will swarm…it’s warmed up and there is more for the bees to forage from. Because, there were no queen cells yet the hive still had some time to go before swarming would occur.



Keith’s notes (edited):

Original hive was configured in an eight frame deep and two eight frame mediums.  There were bees covering all frames with foragers backing up at the entrances.   Six of the eight deep frames were filled with brood, mostly capped.  Some larva, and eggs filling out the rest of the space.

There was drone bridge comb between boxes, which we scraped off.

Right hive (when facing hives):

I recovered woodenware (blue eight frame deep, yellow and orange mediums – each with eight frames) from the barn to create the second hive, using frames from the hive that suffered Varroa Collapse. I marked each frame with a “T” to note those frames had been treated (late last summer – too late to prevent Varroa Collapse). *I did this so I would not harvest honey from those frames in the future.

Took the queen, beautiful slender dark queen, from last year from the original hive (on the left) marked her with a white spot on her thorax, and installed.

Blue deep has 3 frames of mixed brood, also shook in 3 frames of nurse bees (all from the original hive).

As the nurse bees age they will begin to forage and they will orient on the location they are now in, not knowing that they ever were anywhere else (the original hive about 18 inches away). This hive should fill up quickly as the queen lays in the available space.

The yellow medium has 3 or 4 frames of foundation on outside walls and 4 or 5 partially drawn empty frames so the queen will have plenty of room to lay. Top orange medium is full of honey, so colony will have plenty of food without having to forage. Closed up holes on yellow and orange boxes and installed small size entrance reducer. With screened bottom board they should not overheat. **The reason for doing this is to protect the hive with the smaller population from the stronger hive stealing their honey resources.

Hive on the left (original hive):

Gray deep, sky blue and gray mediums – each with eight frames.  Is now queenless.

Has many frames of brood, eggs, nectar, pollen. Full medium of honey and brood, and another (gray) medium on top where the colony has room to put nectar.

The hive will realize that they are queenless and will draw out anywhere from a few to a dozen or more of the eggs that were laid today into queen cells.  The booming population, abundant forage, and queenless condition will result in very good quality queen cells.  We will check back in a week to ensure that there are drawn out queen cells and possibly make another split with frames with queen cells if they are present on multiple frames, and the population is still booming (which Keith expects, given the amount of brood present).

Depending on the amount of capped brood at that time, we might add more “mostly capped” frames from the hive with the queen.  There are many reasons to do this.  (1) To keep a good population of young bees in the split so when the virgin mates and starts laying there will be appropriately aged bees to care for them.   (2) To keep brood pheromones in the hive to keep the reproductive aspects of the worker bees from developing.  (3) To give them more eggs in case of loss of the Queen cell, or virgin during her mating flights.   (4) To regulate the amount of brood in the hive with the queen, we keep her from getting congested and going into swarm mode again.

End notes.


I went to The Honey Exchange  in Portland, and picked up new woodenware to paint and set up this weekend in preparation for Monday’s installation of a package of Russian Hybrids (which I purchased before knowing how strong my hive would be). While there, I also picked up a copy of The Backyard Beekeeperby Kim Flottum. It’s supposed to be a fantastic book for new beekeepers such as myself.

Today, I registered THREE hives with the Department of Agriculture. Who knows, may end up registering another in a few weeks. Yay!!  (p.s. this is not about me racing to increase my hives, it’s about raising a healthy bee population…I’m happy to help our pollinator friends.) ox Bee Mama