May 26, 2013
Our last inspection was a week prior and the bees were already showing signs of fast growth and crowding, but the frames weren’t drawn out enough to add the second box yet. Then the weather turned overcast, rainy and downright cold from Tuesday through Saturday, so with Sunday being my first chance to check on them, I anticipated they’d be ready to expand into a new brood box.
The day was finally sunny and in the 70s, with a mild breeze. It was late afternoon and the girls were mostly in for the night and not very active. I brought the empty brood boxes with me. I opened the hives one at a time and checked the frames starting from the outside in. I confess, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I just use my best instincts and do what I think is best. In this case, all frames were completely drawn out on both sides with comb, and I could see that eggs had been laid in the empty cells of the new frames. But only a corner of each side had actually been capped.
The center frames were very crowded and had empty cells, although I forgot to check those for eggs. Ugh, note to self, create a checklist for every inspection. Both hives were progressing in synch, but I did notice some small queen cells in the center frames of the green hive (1), and none in the yellow hive (2).
At this point I figure if they have a notion to swarm, then they’re gonna swarm and there’s not much I can do about it. I’ve read lots of comments to leave them alone and just let the girls do their thing. Besides, I hate the idea of digging around and destroying their comb with the hive tool. So I decided not to remove the queen cells and left them there for the girls to either clean up or follow their planned path. I’ve read that although queen cells are a strong indication of swarming, sometimes the girls will make them then tear them down.
I added an empty box with clean frames to each hive. Again, I’ve read all kinds of methods about swapping frames around, adding drawn out frames to the top boxes, yada, yada, yada. Being new, I don’ have a bunch of extra frames with pre-made comb. I don’t know if it’s too soon, but I’m on travel this week and won’t get the chance to look at them again until Friday at the earliest. And if bad weather kicks in, it gets pushed even more. So I bit the bullet. They immediately started climbing up into the new frames, so I suspect they’ll begin building new comb straightaway. They’ve gotta be happy to have some elbow room. I just hope they don’t forget about the old frames.
I find myself in a constant state of wonder, trying to guess what they’re doing, whether they’re happy, will they try to leave, am I doing the right things. Then I walk up and watch them busily buzzing around the fronts of the hives and I know that at that moment they’re just fine. That’s the thing, beekeeping is about living in the moment, doing the best you can as you go, accepting whatever happens, learning from it and moving on. I’m learning to accept that, while at the same time continuing to build my knowledge base. I suppose if they were predictable, then this hobby wouldn’t be half as challenging or appealing. Another level of risk that we never anticipated.