Tag Archive | Inspection

Blue Hive Revived and More

April 21, 2016
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The girls have been building up fast this spring, and as mentioned in my last two posts, we experienced two swarms in one weekend.  Both were retrieved and rehived – one is happily rehomed in Green Hive, and the other in Blue Hive.  However, the Blue Hive swarm left the hive (absconded) within a day.  That left Blue Hive empty again.

I had planned to inspect the hives that same weekend to give them space and check their food, but with all the excitement, I had to postpone the inspections until they settled down.  I took a half day from work several days later, when the weather was sunshiny and perfect.  I could take my time and perform a proper inspection.

Pre-Inspection Prep

Preparation is important prior to inspecting.  I had extra boxes, drawn frames, undrawn frames, honey frames (covered so as not to encourage robbing), fume board, tools, and smoker.  You never know what you’ll find in these hives, so it’s good to bee prepared for any scenario.  I’m much better about taking my time now, one hive at a time.  They say “get in, do your business, and get out”.  I follow this to an extent, but I’m also very careful to process what I find as I go, and make smart quick decisions that are most beneficial to the bees without rocking their world.

Purple Hive

Purple Hive was filled with bees, honey and brood.  They looked great and I was really hoping to find some queen cells so I could make an easy split for Blue Hive.  I don’t need a queen cell to make a split.  As long as they have good frames of eggs and larvae, they’ll figure it out themselves.  But considering it takes ~3 weeks for them to make a new queen from scratch, then factor in the time for mating and laying, its much faster and less risky to just give them an nice fat ready-made queen cell.

I didn’t find any queen cells in Purple Hive, which indicates that they likely did NOT swarm.  I set up a new box of checker boarded frames (honey on ends, and alternate drawn and undrawn frames in the center) and added it just above the bottom box to directly expand the brood chamber and give the queen plenty of room to lay and the other bees plenty of room to spread out.  I put “Humpty” back together again and move on to Mint Hive.

Mint Hive

Mint Hive, my active and temperamental Texas bees, had swarmed on Sunday and upon removing the inner cover, it was evident that their numbers had reduced, shown below.

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I used the fume board to clear out and remove the top box.  The other boxes were full of bees, honey, brood, and lots of queen cells.  I snagged a frame w/ a gorgeous fat queen cell and transferred it to Blue Hive, along with some good honey and brood frames, and plenty of bees.  A feeder was added and Blue Hive was back in business.   I’m happy to report that they’re building up well and everyone seems healthy and happy.

Yellow Hive

Yellow Hive was much the same as Purple Hive.  Lots of bees (shown below), but no signs of swarming.  I gave them the same treatment, adding another checkerboard box above the bottom box, and letting them grow and prosper.

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A few weeks later….Supers are on!!!

May 7, 2016

Within a week after the inspections, I added the supers.  Wisteria is starting to bloom, dandelions are out, the nectar flow is on!  We don’t want to miss a beat.  Plus, the supers give them more space…always a good thing this time of year.  Of course, as soon as the supers are added to Purple, Mint and Yellow hives, Mother nature drops the temperatures about 20 degrees and rains on our parade, for a week and a half straight!  Ugh.

The girls jump at every opportunity to get out of the hives and forage.  Purple Hive is bursting, so I’ll split them at my soonest opportunity.  I need to find more space to put nucs and possibly more hives.  The hubster will be thrilled…not.

Green and Blue hives are developing nicely.  I’m keeping them fed.  The garden is bursting and soon we’ll bee planting our veggies. Spring is already flying by fast!

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The Price of Slacking

September 7, 2015

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I did more spectating than inspecting this summer. All hives were well populated, honey production was high, and activity was high all summer. I figured they just do better when I leave them alone and that they would continue to do well until it was time to prep for winter. I’d even hoped for a fall honey harvest.  The bees, however, started going in a different direction…

Labor Day Inspection

On Labor Day I inspected the hives for the first time in probably a month and a half. No honey, which wasn’t terribly surprising considering we’ve had a dearth here since the end of July. They’d had plenty of stores, which they’d done a good job of consuming. I swapped frames around, removing the supers and adding honey frames back to the hives.

All hives had brood, but the numbers had dwindled in Purple and Green hives.  Even in Blue Hive the brood patterns were very spotty. That meant either (or both) the queens were weak, they were queenless, or varroa mites were in full force. From what I’ve heard, mite counts are high this year. But I have hygenic, mite resistant bees, and I don’t treat because I’d like for them to stay mite resistant.

I returned to the shop with frame filled supers, a collection of wet nectar and honey frames, dry untouched frames, and dry drawn comb. I separated the frames – dry, wet, honey. Wet frames were set outside so the bees could clean them up (farther than 50ft from the hives, of course). Honey frames were wrapped in plastic and frozen, and dry frames (including the frames cleaned by the bees) were stacked and stored with moth crystals.

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The Search for Three Queens

It was a busy afternoon, but at least I knew where the girls stood. Immediately, I began looking up sources for queens since I hadn’t seen any signs of varroa – the bees looked healthy, no wing deformity, no signs of mites on the bees or larvae. BeeWeaver is where I purchased my existing queens. The bees started out hot, but they are mite resistant, fast producers, and hardy in the winter. The problem was they had no queens available until mid-October. I can’t wait that long. I need queens now so they have some chance of building up their populations before the cold weather gets here. I hate to mix my bees again and would prefer to keep the BeeWeaver lines going, but I also don’t want to risk losing three hives.

The hardest thing about beekeeping is finding a queen when you need one. I can understand completely why people choose to rear their own queens. Or better yet, next year I might put together several nucs in July or August so I’ll have one or two queens and some extra bees available if needed.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a private queen breeder in Pennsylvania, a retired USDA employee with vast knowledge and experience who rears his own hygenic queens. They weren’t cheap, but they’re in the mail.

Lesson learned – what looks good on the outside may not bee so good on the inside. A lot can change over the course of 2 or 3 weeks, so keep up with inspections at least every 3 or 4 weeks.

Splitsville for Blue Hive

April 26, 2014 (Saturday)

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Spring is already passing quickly and I’m falling behind on my reports. All three hives are doing well, but blue hive especially is bursting at the seams, perhaps ready for a split…or two to help prevent swarming.  I’m seeing reports of swarms everywhere.  They say happy bees swarm, so I guess its a good thing, as long as you can retrieve them and place them back into your own hives.

With that said, I gave all three hives a good inspection last weekend…

Yellow Hive

I installed Yellow Hive about two weeks ago.  They’re feeding well, they appear active, they have some brood, but not tons of it.  The outer frames have new comb and they’ve built a comb ladder up to the inner cover. That tells me they’re ready for a new box so they can continue to grow.  Granted!  Yellow hive is now two levels high.   I closed ‘em up and moved on to Green Hive…

Green Hive

Green hive is just rolling along, not terribly active, not filled to the brim with bees, but doing ok.  I suspect they had too much space over the winter and had a hard time of it, but they made it through.  I reduced their boxes last week (04-19-14) from three to two, hoping that would reduce their stress levels by giving them less area to maintain.  They weren’t filling the space anyway, and this configuration seems to suit their size and activity much better.

I considered requeening, but decided against it.  And I’m glad.   Their numbers looked good.  They were out and about, they had some brood, the laying pattern looked fine, few drones, all indicators that the queen is still going, albeit slow.  When the time is right, they’ll make their own queen.  Besides, if I spend money on a queen, I want another BeeWeaver Texas queen like I have in Blue Hive.

Blue Hive

What can I say about these little buggers?  My little blue hive overwintered beautifully and has taken off.  Tons of bees, they’re super active, a bit temperamental, but busy laying lots of brood and more drone comb than I care for.  I fear this hive may be thinking about swarming in the near future.  No signs of queen cells, but lots of drone laid in burr comb.  So much so that the frames between the boxes are sticking together.  I read that adjusting the bee space between boxes will help with this, but I don’t know how to fix the space between boxes.  It is what it is.

This is a great time to split the hive, start a nucleus (nuc) colony, and see if they’ll make a new BeeWeaver queen.  I took out two bee covered brood and larvae frames (I probably should have taken more bees) from blue hive and replaced them with empty brood comb frames that I had in the freezer (pre-thawed, of course).   I added the brood frames and bees to my nuc, surrounded by wet drawn comb frames and a full frame of honey.

For feed, the hubster used his smallest size drill bit and drilled about 10-15 holes on the lid of a mason jar filled with sugar syrup.  Worked perfectly.

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 Welcome Baby Nuc

We’ll closed Baby Nuc for 24 hours.  The following evening, I placed a branch in front of the nuc entrance and added the entrance reducer on the smallest setting.   The branch will cause the bees to reorient themselves as they come out of the hive so they return to their new location rather than returning to their previous hive.

You may also notice that Baby Nuc is not painted.  I actually painted with with Linseed oil rather than paint.

Important to keep an eye on the night time temps.  If it looks like freezing, then Baby Nuc will come inside for the night.

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 The Hive Family is Growing

We moved our raised bed to make room for more hives.  We now have space for two more next to our existing hives.   If all goes as planned (which it never does, but if it does), Baby Nuc will transfer to an 8 frame hive, and I will split Blue Hive again using a much better method that I learned about AFTER making this split (of course).   Lots of bees in blue hive.

Of course, new hives  mean new colors.  Woo hoo!  I have the paint selected and sitting in the workshop, ready and waiting to be revealed!

Spring Bees In Action

April 5, 2014

Spring is here and the girls are so busy I can’t keep up with them!  The bees love this spring weather and so do I. I couldn’t stop watching them as I worked in the garden. I didn’t realize how much I missed them.


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Checking for Brood

I did my first spring inspection a few weeks earlier, so this was a follow-up to see how the girls are progressing.  I wanted to check the brood and see how much the queens are laying. It’s easy to see where the brood is located. Just look for the cluster of bees on top of the frames. In both hives, I pulled one or two frames and saw nice round, centered brood patterns, but they aren’t laying like crazy. I didn’t look for eggs, only capped brood. I’m just not sure, at this point, when the weather is still cool and rain is prevalent, just how much brood I should see.  I’m thinking they should be laying a lot more.

Feeding

I’ve been feeding sugar syrup and diluted honey from capped sugar syrup.  Blue hive is taking it fairly quickly.  Green hive, not so much.  The numbers in both hives are ok, but could certainly be better. At this point, I will ask my mentor to visit and look at my hive to help me decide whether they look good or if I should requeen.  My instincts tell me to requeen green hive.  I might even combine hives.

Fume Board Incident

I attempted to reduce green hive by one box since they have so much space.  I placed the fume board on top (which has worked like a charm in the past), but this time they went nuts and started coming out the bottom and oozing over the top.  I removed the board and they remained that way til evening.

Pollen and Nectar

I’m excited to see the trees beginning to bud, and the daffodils are out, so pollen is in the air and the girls have been hauling it in large clumps.

Yellow Hive Will be Back Soon!

As for Yellow Hive, packages are scheduled for pickup Monday morning. I plan to be there bright and early Monday morning, and will install before heading in to my day job. Will be good to have Yellow Hive back in action.

Mice, Mold and Another Massacre (or two)

October 20, 2013 – Fall Inspection and Mouse Guard Installs

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FINALLY! My bee supplier scored a shipment of Brushy Mountain mouse guards for the hives. I’ve been waiting to install the mouse guards for three weeks now, since the farmers have been cutting down the corn and harvesting the fields. That means the mice are exposed and seeking refuge in … beehives? Of all places, I know, mice smell the honey, and hives are warm. During the winter the bees are busy clustering and the mice are left to do a tremendous amount of damage to the frames, honey and comb. That’s why we need mouse guards. You can make homemade mouse guards out of wire mesh and other hardware, but I like the Brushy Mountain guards because they’re sized for 8 frame hives, they’re easy to install, they’re sturdy enough to use again next year and the year after, and the things have been selling out for weeks, so I consider that a good testament that they work.

Good Day for an Inspection!

The weather has been consistently wet and cloudy and cold and/or windy. The girls haven’t been out much, so I was excited to see them darting around the hives this morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day, in the low 70s, slightly breezy. I haven’t inspected the girls in several weeks, plus I wanted to replace the hive beetle traps. I’ve seen hive beetles in all three hives. Thankfully the girls are strong and able to guard themselves well against mice and beetles. It’s also getting cold, so I’m hoping this is a close to final inspection before the freezing overnight temperatures begin.

I started with Green Hive 1 (GH1). They’ve always been my strongest hive. The top three boxes are filled with stores…yay!  I considered adding a bee escape board to clear out the top box and consolidate the hive down to 4 boxes, but then I’d end up having to freeze the top box of capped sugar syrup.  I decided to let them continue caring for it since they’re doing such a fine job.  Everything looked good.  They have new hive beetle traps, and 2:1 feed. Easy peasy. I closed them up and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

YH2 has 2 full boxes of stores. I didn’t see brood, but then I didn’t check every frame.   YH2 is like a propolis factory.  They seal the heck out of everything.  And they’re nosy to boot, which makes my job much harder.  I don’t dig much because there’s always risk of damaging the queen, and this time of year that’s the last thing I want to do.  Sure, they can make another queen, but the girls have kicked out all the drones, so she likely won’t be able to mate.  I’m still new at this beekeeping thing. I leave a lot to instincts, common sense and high hopes. They look healthy, numbers are good, they’re defending themselves, stores are strong, no red flags. Works for me.

The “Not So Happy” Dance

While GH1 goes about their business, letting me get in and get out fairly quickly, YH2 bees are more involved.  They guard well, which is good.  They’re also smart.  How do I know they’re smart?  Because they know exactly where to find the opening in the bottom of my pants leg.  There’s nothing like holding a 50 lb box of bees and feeling a bee or two flying around in your pants.  That part is actually much worse than the sting itself.   Thanks to YH2, I have one sting on the front of my thigh, one on my ankle, and one on the back side of my other inner thigh.  If only they’d stay down inside the hives, the inspection would go so much smoother with less casualties.  I’ll be itching in the morning.

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YH2 Meets Beezilla…again

I pulled a center frame from the bottom box. Always a risk since the queen tends to hang in this area. No brood, mostly stores and empty cells. I managed to drop the frame down carefully, but then I pushed the frames together and caught a few bees in between. The buzz was intense and they rose up and out of the hive in a large mass where the mini massacre had just occurred. Beezilla is at it again… I can only hope that I didn’t harm the queen.  I’m always amazed at how emotionally distressed they become when a bee is…well…smooshed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous and nothing will cause a mass of bees to start buzzing around faster than killing one of their own.

I gave my apologies and put YH2 back together with new beetle traps and 2:1 syrup.  On to Blue Hive3 (BH3).

BH3 – My Pride and Joy

I never truly felt like a beekeeper until I split my first hive.  Blue Hive 3 has been an ongoing experiment, a happy accident.  I’m so happy with how they’ve progressed. Lots of bees, decent stores (although they still hadn’t filled in the end frames so I did some rearranging), they guard themselves well, everyone is happy and healthy, no more robbing.  I’m not moving them to a nuc.  They’ve filled out their two 8-frame boxes quite well.  I have faith in my little hive.  We’ll just have to wait and see how they do.

BH3 is also interesting because these bees are very dark, compared to my other bees.  I’m hoping for some cross breeding in the spring because that makes for a hardier stock.

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Woo hoo! Lots of active, healthy young bees in BH3.

Mold in the Hives

Its not bad enough that we’re battling mice and insects.  I’ve noticed green mold forming between BH3’s inner cover and the top cover.  A result of moisture rising from the sugar syrup and not enough ventilation up top to release it. I cleaned the inner cover and top cover with vinegar to help kill the mold, and I added 1-3/4 inch blocks of 2″x4″ wood to raise the top cover and create some ventilation. Let’s hope that works. I added a few hive beetle traps and 2:1 syrup and closed them up!

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Green mold forming on the inner cover.

Installing the Mouse Guards

Oh, this was fun.  I thought the mouse guards would fit over the entrance reducers.  Wrong!  They REPLACE the entrance reducers.  This meant removing entrance reducers, which are so tight and well propolised in GH1 and YH2 that I spent over a hour digging them out with my hive tool.  BH3’s entrance never fit right anyway, so they were easy.  I was of course dressed in full garb.  The hubster was standing by with the drillI and screw in hand, ready to move in and screw them down, but by the time I finished, the girls were in a frenzy.  When I removed the entrance reducers, they poured out in droves.  The hubster didn’t stand a chance, and God forbid he actually suit up for the occasion.  Nope, I was left to size the mouse guards and drill them in myself, which I wasn’t prepared to do.

You know those action thrillers where hoards of people are try to escape before the walls close in, and for the pure sake of gore, a dozen people are smooshed with heads sticking out and feet hanging down?  Yep, this installation was straight out of a bee horror flick.  The hubster is a pro at drilling in screws.  I, on the other hand, had to be coached from the sidelines.  Those stupid little screws just would not stay on the end of the drill, and working under pressure did not help.  But once I got it, I managed to knock the other two quickly.   Of course, YH2 experienced the most trauma and everyone in the hive had to come out and see what the fuss was about.

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YH2 Not Happy with Beezilla

The guards in now in place. Yay! Although I didn’t see any signs of mice, I placed the mite boards in GH1 and YH2 to check for droppings, just to be safe.  Still some important winter decisions to make and research to be done, but so far so good. Ever forward!

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BH3 using their new guarded entrance

YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

August 2, 2013 (Day 84)

Battling Beetles and Helping Yellow Hive Requeen

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) is still having problems. Based on the last inspection, the hive has Small Hive Beetles and the comb is empty and without brood. I also found a wax moth larvae. All serious issues if not dealt with right away.

The Plan of Attack

The best defense for any hive against pests is a strong colony. Granted, YH2 has not been as active, but it still has ALOT of bees, and they are still guarding their hive. After speaking with my bee supplier, he suggested I reduce the size of YH2 from 4 boxes to 3 boxes. This condenses the colony so they have more bees and less space to cover for fighting off the beetles and pests.

Beetle pic

His other suggestion, besides using a hive beetle trap inside the hive, was to take a frame of brood from GH1 and put it into YH2. This would give the YH2 girls a good foundation for breeding a new queen.

Making Pollen Patties

I also started feeding the girls pollen patties since they’re not bringing in pollen and they really need the protein. I had ordered a bucket of BeePro pollen substitute, mixed it with sugar syrup and HoneyBHealthy, and rolled out my own homemade pollen patties. The girls have taken to them well. I posted this tutorial on SnapGuide, so go check it out!

Check out How to How to Make Pollen Patties for Bees by Paula P on Snapguide.

Two Homemade Pollen Patties

Beezilla Returns

Inspections are one thing, but this time I really had to know exactly what to do and how to do it BEFORE going in. I entered YH1 first, removed all the boxes down to Box 1. I looked through box 1 to verify there indeed was no brood. And I couldn’t find a queen, and no brood means either she’s died or she’s not in good laying order. So that meant leaving YH2 open while digging into GH1 for a frame of brood. GH1 has been doing outstanding, so they could afford to help YH2 out. I removed a center frame from YH2’s bottom box, shook off the bees and set it aside.

Helpful Tip Using Pillow Cases or Landscaping Fabric

I don’t like just leaving the boxes open like that. The bees operate in a dark hive and don’t care for the sunlight, plus they fly around like crazy wondering what’s going on. A fellow Maryland beekeeper and blogger, Suburban Rancher, suggested overlaying open boxes with pillow cases. A brilliant idea, except I didn’t bring any pillow cases with me to the apiary, and I don’t know that I have any on hand anyway. Then I remembered I had some black landscaping fabric. I pulled it out of the greenhouse and laid it over YH2 and it worked like a charm. It’s lightweight, keeps the bright light out, and the bees were more settled and not flying around everywhere.

Stealing Brood

I opened GH1 and removed a beautiful frame of capped brood, verified the queen was not on it, then shook the bees off and back into the box. I replaced that frame with another drawn out frame from an upper GH1 box, and replaced the upper frame with a brand new frame.

Capped Brood from GH1

Capped Brood from GH1

GH1 received a nice pollen patty as a reward for their donation, then I closed them up and grabbed their empty feeder bucket for a refill. GH1 goes through a lot of sugar syrup! I also did not see any beetles in their hive. A testament to a strong hive’s ability to fight off their foes.

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YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

I placed the capped brood frame into YH2 and placed a pollen patty over the top bars of the brood area. The last pollen patty was completely consumed so I was hoping this one would be just as popular. Protein aids in brood production. In this case, I hoped it would aid in queen production.

Beetles were emerging left and right. I smooshed as many as I could. I’m sure a few will go for the pollen patty. I closed up the hive, with the exception of box 4 (the top box). I shook the bees from box 4 into the hive and left YH2 with only 3 boxes. I wrapped box 4 with kitchen trash bags and happily discovered that the entire box and frames fit comfortably in the bottom of my freezer. Freezing will kill any unwanted pests and bacteria and then I can figure out how to store it for later.

I also inserted two homemade hive beetle traps made with CD cases and some boric acid bait into the hive entrances. The bees chase the beetles around, and hopefully the beetles will seek refuge in the bait filled CD case. This is an experiment so we shall see if they work. I’ll still be picking up some Beetle Blaster this weekend.

YH2 only ate half their sugar syrup. I refilled it anyway. Now we just wait and see if YH2 can requeen and make a total recovery. Fingers crossed.

UFOs in the Hive

June 29, 2013 – Inspection (Day 50)

The afternoon was gorgeous, warm (high 80s) with a nice breeze, bright and sunny.  I lit the smoker with pine needles. They burned easily and gave off a nice cool thick white smoke. Then I pulled out the tools and geared up.   It was 4PM, their most active time of day.  I hoped they’d be too busy to pay attention to me.

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Green Hive 1 (GH1)

The feeder was empty and I could see the chopsticks worked well, allowing room for movement beneath the pail. I opened the inner cover and saw a moth amidst the bees. Pests are never a welcome sight, although I didn’t see anything else that looked problematic.  Another item to monitor and research.

We added a third brood box last week.  Few bees were in the top box and one or two center frames contained the start of some drawn comb.  They were slow to start on the new foundation before, then within two days they’d practically drawn the lot. You just never know.  I’ll spray the frames with sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy, which will permeate the hive with minty, lemon balm aromatherapy and make those frames super tasty. That should pull them up and get them going.

I pulled a frame from the second box and low and behold, I saw eggs.  That’s right, I saw eggs!  Not a figment of my imagination.  I had to look hard, but definitely across the bottom rows.  Rice shaped white specs.  Note, I wore contacts rather than glasses and the sun was behind me.  A beautiful site indeed! I flipped the frame to find rows of fat white larvae nestled in the cells. The bees are numerous and continuing to reproduce.  Yay!  GH1is good to go!  Moving on…

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2)

YH2 was on it’s good behavior. I think the girls and I are back on good terms after last week’s incident. The feeder was completely empty. Both hives are still feeding like crazy. I pulled off the inner cover and found, setting on top of the frames, small propylis covered pebbles and a dark brown papery looking cocoon with an entrance/exit hole.  I don’t like the looks of it and wonder if it may be related to the moth I’d seen earlier in the other hive.  I’ll take both items to my bee meeting this week for show and tell in hopes of getting some answers.

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The new super we added last week is full of bees and the center 2 or 3 frames are being drawn out nicely. They’re a bit farther along than GH1’s new box.

I moved down to the top brood box and found nectar and pollen, but saw no eggs. Still very crowded with bees. I pulled the first frame from the center brood box and noticed some drone cells along the bottom. My eyes followed upward across some nice capped brood then skimmed over a big red dot. Whoa, there she was, her majesty and highness, the queen of the hive marked with an unmistakable red dot, right there looking at me as if to say “Do you mind?  I’m trying to work here”.

Enough said.  I carefully tucked her frame back into the box and closed up. My work was done – the girls are still rockin their hives.