Monday, July 5, 2010

The A-Bee-Cs: First Hive Inspections

I've been remiss in updating the blog with news of my adventures in beekeeping. Locked in the gravitational pull of family, a full-time job, a dog, chickens, bees, my craft club, and a passion for sewing, I find it increasingly difficult to break away for an hour to blog, too! But the only thing better than making or doing is sharing what you've made or done with people who care. If you're reading this post, that means you, my friend, so here we go.

We got two packages of bees in the middle of May, and since then, we've checked on their progress once a week. Following are the photos from our first two hive inspections.

At first, we just watch their comings and goings from a small entrance hole in the hive, here obscured by a mass of bees. The workers leave to forage and return with pollen and nectar. You can't see them carry the nectar, but note the bee in the foreground with yellow pollen packed onto her legs. She's patiently waiting her turn to go inside and deliver the pollen into comb cells.

Bees aren't likely to sting you while they're foraging in the field, but when you open up
the home where they store their food and babies, they can get
justifiably defensive. Blowing some smoke into the hive before you open it up helps bring the tone down.

Once the covers are off, we find some wild comb on the tops of the frames. I scrape it off so the frames don't get stuck together, and fortunately for us, the comb has nectar in it. We pop the comb in our mouths and chew on it like gum, with the sweet nectar seeping out.

Good news: an empty queen cage! Hopefully, she is hard at work
laying eggs to increase the size and strength of the colony.

Our hives are new, so there was no comb at all for the colonies we started. As you can see, the bees immediately begin to draw out comb cells. The area in the photo above with a white coating shows capped honey cells. Once the bees have filled cells with nectar and covered them, you have honey.

The bees fill other cells of comb with pollen, which, along with honey, is their supply of food.

And they fill yet other cells with brood. Each of the cells above is either filled with an egg, which looks like a miniature grain of rice, or a newly hatched larva, which is ribbed and crescent shaped.

Look closely at the white cells and you'll see maturing larvae.

Once the larvae are ready to pupate, the bees cap the cells with a thick crust, as seen on the left of the photo above.

Each queen is released, and she's laying eggs. The workers are drawing out comb, raising brood, and building a food supply. All's well! (Except my husband, who took two stings to the face taking these photos.) Three hearty cheers to Mars for sharing these incredible pictures with us!

Alethea Morrison, Creative Director


Turning the Clock Back said...

oh, how I wish I could have bees! I had a great uncle who did it for years but we dont have the land for it here in the 'burbs'. Plus, the kids and the dog are issues.

Melanie Jolicoeur said...


Amanda Jane Jones said...

Wow, this looks amazing. I was able to attend my first honey harvest this past august and loved every minute. Beautiful images!