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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blue Heron First Real Inspection 2011

I am thrilled to report that this hive made it through the winter and is going great guns! There were lots of bees and lots of brood throughout the hive. They are healthy looking - I didn't see any Varroa and no other bad signs and they seemed nonplussed by my intrusion.

Next time I am going to take a tripod. I didn't get good pictures. I was by myself and didn't check the camera settings. The camera was still set on Kids and Pets from taking pictures of my grandchildren the day before.

I used the purchased hive drape to cover the hive except for the frame I was removing. As you can see on the left in the above picture, I also draped the boxes I removed.

I was concerned about this hive because the bees were still in the bottom box after the winter with a solid box of honey above them. Often the queen will not cross a honey barrier like that and she is said to be honey-bound. I looked at the old capped brood in the bottom box. All but the outside two frames were being used for brood. One frame had a perfect football shaped pattern, all the center had emerged and new eggs and larvae now occupied the space.

I took off the second box - it's full of honey and the comb is often cross-combed with two frames joined by comb between them. The honey in that box is all composed of "bee tea" syrup driven honey so it is only good for bee food. I took the box off of the hive and set it aside to decide what to do with it.

I was so surprised to find that Box three contained lots of beautifully drawn comb and new capped brood as well as young larvae and eggs. I didn't see a queen cell anywhere, nor any drones. In this third box, however, I did see some drone brood (see the picture below).

And then I saw her. I so regret that bad picture - I took THREE bad pictures! Anyway, I outlined this absolutely gorgeous queen so you could see her. She was large and long with an all golden abdomen. If you click on the photo below, you can see that I've outlined her in red.

 Right in front of me, she lowered her abdomen and laid an egg....privacy notwithstanding. She was beautiful and brave - she had crossed the honey barrier to continue her egg laying in the box above it where there was space for the taking.

Every frame in every box was being used so I added a fourth box of foundationless frames. I actually put it in position 3. I took a frame of nectar from the side of Box 2 and put it in the middle of Box 3 (the new box) to help the bees know how to build the comb in the frames.

I replaced that frame in Box 2 with a foundationless frame.  I also marked all the frames as per Housel positioning.

Julia is inspecting this hive on Saturday and we'll see if they have built any comb out by then.

I then decided to put the honey barrier box on as Box 4 and wrote on it in magic marker "Bee Tea Honey" and "Cross Comb". I will not harvest this honey for eating because of the bee tea. If the bees don't use it, I'll probably collect it and feed it back to the bees so that I can make use of the honey and straighten out the cross comb.

And now I'm going to enter my adventure on Hive Tracks and go to the kitchen and wash my hive tool which is gunked with propolis as often happens in the first inspection.
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  1. What are your thoughts on the hive drape? Did you see it make any significant difference?

    I haven't figured out if it makes a difference or is just another beekeeper gimmick device I need to keep track of.

    Thanks - Steven

  2. I am sold on the hive drape. We started using them at Blue Heron last year and we never use smoke when we inspect. I think it is due to our calm movements and the use of the hive drape. You don't have to buy one. I use "flour sacking" towels you buy at WalMart (they are tightly woven to keep flour in the sacks so bees don't get caught on the threads).

  3. Warre hives employ a similar technique and use a cloth to cover the hive, peeling back the cloth when needed to inspect. works well. when I inspect I have a smoker ready but generally just lightly spritz with tepid water from a spray bottle.

    Linda - enjoyed standing behind your shoulder (figuratively) as you did this inspection. thanks!


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