Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wild Comb

We had another non stop day today.  First and foremost, Maverick must have read my post last night because we came out to a nice clean kitchen floor this morning!!  It was such a joyous moment...

Ayden having some bird seed and plastic egg time while I got ready.

I won't do a full play by play but our agenda consisted of story time, Whole Foods for lunch, a visit with my mom at the hospital, a stop at home to let the dog out and switch over the laundry, a consultation with a chiropractor for me and my first bee hive check of the season.  Shew!

While we were hiving our bees, David did not realize that the queen cages had two corks.  One side is where they put in the sugar candy and the other side is where they insert the bees once the candy is solid.  David just removed the first one he saw and out flew the queen...  I called my mentor and asked what we should do since we were certain that our queen did not end up in her hive.  He told us it was just a waiting game.  It was possible that she'd take her maiden flight (when she goes up and finds some handsome drones to mate with) and find her way back into her hive.  He also said it was possible that she'd find her way back into the other hive where she and the their queen would have a duel to the death.  And the last option would be that she wouldn't find her way back at all.  The last two options would have required that I order a replacement queen. Only $22 and not a huge deal (the bees didn't have anywhere to go without a queen's leadership so they would hang around long enough for us introduce a new queen) but we were still hoping that she'd just end up where she was supposed to and save us the trouble.

For today's inspection, I decided to start with the one who's queen we did not loose (the yellow one).  When I pulled off the inner cover, I discovered that they had started pulling their own wild comb into the space from the frame we left out to make room for the queen cage to hang.  I had heard of top bar hives and folks who use foundation strips rather than sheets which both allow bees to draw out their own comb but I had never seen it.  It's looks the same only the bottom is rounded.  It was definitely pretty cool.

I took the above picture after I had cleaned it off of the inner cover (you can see the queen cage in in the middle which is about 4 inches long).  As soon as I pulled it out and realized what it was (and that it was filled with eggs) I figured the queen might be on it.  Sure enough I spotted her immediately so I carefully pulled the comb away from the inner cover and set it on top of the other frames while I contemplated how to safely remove her from it since this extra comb would have to be discarded.  While I was trying to decide my course of action she moseyed her way onto the frame right under the comb all on her own.  Thank you, your majesty, for making my job so easy!  I knocked the rest of the bees off of the rest of the comb, added the frame we had removed to make space for the queen cage and closed up shop.  I saw the queen and eggs so I knew she was there, had mated and was doing her job.  My work in the yellow hive was done.  Next up... the white hive.

When I removed the inner cover I found this:

These bees had done the same thing only they had pulled one solid sheet of comb over to one side of the queen cage rather two smaller on either side.  I looked and looked and could not find the queen anywhere on this one but drumroll..... I saw lots of eggs!!!  That was proof enough that the queen had made it home and was laying her little heart out.  The problem was that because I couldn't see her, I wasn't comfortable breaking the comb off or even laying it down so I could inspect the other frames for her.  Now that we had her back I didn't want to chance injuring her or loosing her again.  Both hives were running low on sugar syrup and I have to go out and feed them tomorrow so I decided to close up shop and give my mentor a call. He said that this was normal and that all I had to do was shake all of the bees off and into the hive.  He said if the queen is on there, she'll end up inside the hive and that it wouldn't hurt her at all.  Once the comb is clear of bees  I can just break it off of the inner cover with my hands, replace the missing frame and the job will be done.  We are just so glad that the lost queen found her way home!!  I do feel bad about all of those little eggs that will die but apparently it's all part of it.  I need to get a thicker skin.

Overall my first hive check went so smoothly compared to my first one last year as a newbie beekeeper.  I can already tell how much more I will learn and how much more comfortable I will become with each passing year.  

All I have on my agenda for tomorrow is a visit with my mom and I am welcoming the emptiness of my calendar, even if it is only for a day.


Flashback!  Here's what we were up to one year ago today: "Daydreaming"
And two years ago today: "Dear Pregnant Self"

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