Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Inspection

June 9, 2010 - It's been one week since Hiving Day, and it's time for the first inspection of the hive. It took a lot of effort to resist the temptation to check on the bees during the past week, but I had to give them some time to release their queen and start building the comb. If the bees are disturbed too soon after hiving, they may blame the queen and become regicidal, killing her and essentially dooming the entire colony. Although the queen doesn't actually "rule" the hive or give orders, she is, like all human politicians, monarchs or figureheads, at the mercy of the capricious mood of the populace, and can become a convenient scapegoat for events that are out of her control.

Once I got the hive opened, I was surprised at how industrious they had been in only a week: they had drawn out an impressive amount of wax and had built comb on about 30% of the available frame surface. I could see nectar and pollen in many of the cells, meaning that they have begun foraging in earnest. This, clearly, is a colony with its priorities in order.

The queen cage was empty, indicating her successful release. This was a good sign, but it was important that I locate her to be sure that she was still alive and present. It didn't take long to find her. She was right where she was supposed to be -- on the center frame, where the greatest amount of comb had been built. The next thing I looked for was the presence of eggs. A productive queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day, which when first deposited in the cells, are very tiny, smaller than the head of a pin. Unfortunately, I didn't see any eggs, though there may have been some. It may be too soon, or they may just have been too small for me to see. I'll return next week for another inspection, and will hopefully see some then. A productive queen is essential to the survival of a colony, as an adult honeybee lives only a few weeks, and the population of a colony must be maintained and increased.

The life cycle of a honeybee worker, from egg to adult, is 21 days -- 3 as an egg, 6 as a larva, and 12 as a pupa. If the queen has been laying, I should see some nice, fat larvae curled inside their brood cells next week.

A future visit will see the addition of a second super, with more empty frames, to the top of the hive, doubling the bees' living area and making room for much more comb, which means more food storage and more space for the queen's eggs. The guideline that I'm using is that a new super should be added when 70% of the frame surface has been drawn into comb. Since this is an 8-frame hive, that means 5 and a half frames. If my bees keep working at this rate (and I fully expect that they will), I may need to install the new super as early as next week. We shall see.

Until then, enjoy the pics and the video (as always, thanks to Ginny for the excellent photos and to Sanchez for the video):

On YouTube: First Inspection


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