On Sept 14, LCBA members met at the Randle community garden for an east county fall management workshop, then moved to an apiary in Packwood ~ a reunion of many alumni of our spring beekeeping class in Morton. Our focus: assessing colonies' readiness to over-winter. . . .
Below, Little Hive on the Prairie:
Above & below, opening the hive for inspection:Below, bees were agitated as we began inspecting: . . . but these bees calmed down quickly. An agitated disposition can indicate a queenless hive, so their calming down was a good sign.
Below, Norm examines an outer frame from the top box, with drawn comb but no stored food or brood: it's not unusual for outer frames to have little stored, and there is still time for them to fill it out:
Above, outer frame, where bees have just begun to draw comb, is hung outside the hive box: using this frame rack frees up space in the box, making it easier to inspect other frames.
Below, Norm uses hive tool to scrape burr comb from tops of frames. Bees tend to glue frames together, but this makes inspecting more difficult. Slow & gentle are the keys to removing burr comb without injuring bees:Above, Norm displays a frame that is rich in capped honey (see close-up, right column), uncapped nectar, & bees: often, frames toward the sides of the hive box have more food stores, with brood concentrated more on central frames. Ideally, an over-wintering colony should have 10 deep frames filled with honey & pollen.
Norm and Steve look at a frame with capped brood; however, the brood pattern is spotty. Possibly some bees had just hatched out, or perhaps the queen had not been laying well. Below, an adjacent frame displaying an excellent brood frame suggests the happier option:
Above: it would be hard to ask for a better brood pattern than this. The frame is almost solid brood, with a few empty cells indicating recent hatch-outs.
Above: after replacing frames in top box, time to inspect the lower box. Norm inserts his hive tool between the boxes and moves it around the perimeter to break the bees' propolis seal.
Below: with the top box carefully lifted off & put down on the platform, bottom box inspection starts: Below: the bottom box is thick with bees. This is where we'd expect to find the queen . . .
Sure enough, here's the queen: large & vigorous, she was surrounded by her retinue, though in the photo she is scurrying away to find a dark place. Queens are photosensitive & prefer darkness deep in the hive:
We've found the queen & seen solid food storage: time to put the hive boxes back together, below:
Above, checking re-alignment of boxes. Below, time to turn attention to the super, removed at the start of inspection: have bees stored honey in its frames?
No honey to speak of in the super, though the bees have plenty of food stores in the deep bodies. Time to take the super off: otherwise, bees will waste energy through the winter trying to keep this additional space heated.
Below, replacing the inner cover:
Below, Liz replaces the telescoping cover:
What to do with that semi-empty super? Norm tilts it against the back of the hive so that the bees can rob out its honey &, hopefully, transport it to fill out their remaining semi-empty frames with winter stores:
Below, the Randle workshop cast of characters after giving the hive a clean bill of health:
Below, Michaela listens as Norm answers questions:
Above, hitchhiker bee refuses to leave Peter's suit. . . . this bee literally did hitchhike all the way out to our next workshop in Packwood, where she was placed on the landing strip of another hive. See our next photo gallery: Fall Management III - Packwood. . . . coming soon!
Above, LCBA President Norm Switzler holds up a frame for inspection as workshop attendees observe details (photo by Tomme Trikosko).
Above, LCBA member Cathy watches the inspection against the backdrop of the Randle United Methodist Church's beautiful woodwork siding. Below, bees congregate on Peter's hood [possibly attracted to the duck tape?]:
Below, Norm holds up a frame for inspection. Note how he holds it vertically: it's important to preserve the orientation of the comb, whose cells are very slightly up-tilted to help eggs stay attached. The frame shouldn't be held horizontally for long, and should be held over the hive box to minimize risk of accidentally shaking the queen onto the ground.
Below, Michaela examines scraped burr comb:
Below, three generations of beekeepers: Michaela holds up burr comb, mom Terrie snaps a picture as grandma Linda looks on:
Below, close-up of capped honey, which appears whitish or yellow, with some cells translucent. Contrast this with how capped brood looks (next photo): Below, close-up of capped brood ~ note its color, ranging from orange to brown, & its texture, raised by comparison with the above honey frame:Below, Kim watches as Norm inspects a frame rich in bees, with capped brood on the lower right end:
Workshop participants view strong brood frame:
Above, Norm gently pinches each end of the frame between his fingers & starts to lift it out; below, examining the frame:
Above, a frame rich in bees: one way to move bees from cells without harming them is to blow gently on the frame - bees don't like the CO2 in our breath.
Below, close up on re-aligning the two deep hive bodies - again, slow & gentle is key to avoid crushing bees:
Moving deep bodies is heavy work: one box full of brood & food can weigh 80 pounds or more. This is why some beekeepers use western supers instead of full size deep bodies. Below, Norm gets his back in it to re-align the boxes:
Above, Norm leads discussion after closing up the hive; below, Maggie has a question:
Below, Tomme turns bee suit into turban as heat rises:
Below, close-up of strong brood pattern:
First year beekeepers: above, Deanna & Duane; below, Jayson & Kim.
Above, LCBA member Peter Glover in discussion with Koreann; below, Koreann & scenery ~ east county was particularly beautiful this day: