We’ve had lots of rain, but also a lot of sunny days, making it perfect bee weather. I observed the main hive bringing in lots of white pollen, which is different from the yellow-orange stuff I’ve seen the past few weeks. At least they are still working.
I and my oldest went into the hive, looking at all the frames from the top down. The top medium super didn’t have any comb drawn at all so I put that off to the side with the intention of replacing it with a shallow super. I had originally intended on the shallow all along, but I had to put some guides at the top for the bees and bought a few with foundation to help them build right. The guides are simply some wide craft sticks glued into the top groove.
Basically, I’m getting off of foundation altogether and letting the bees draw their own comb. There are several other beeks that are doing this for several reasons. Much of it has to do with varroa control, as well as making sure that the wax is clean. It gives the bees the option of building the cells to their own size specification instead of the pattern on the foundation. And the bees have made it obvious to me that they much prefer drawing their own over following the guide on plastic foundation. Foundation types (plastic vs wax) and whether or not to use any foundation at all can be contentious topics among beekeepers. The saying goes that if you ask 10 beekeepers for advice on anything you’ll get about 12 different answers. I read several blogs and follow a few groups on Facebook and the contentiousness is easy to spot, although it’s generally friendly for the most part.
There’s a figure that is tossed around that it takes 8-10 pounds of honey (or more) to make one pound of wax. I haven’t seen anything scientific to go in favor or against that but it’s generally a figure that is accepted and then tossed around in favor of re-using comb in order to preserve more honey by re-using the comb. The logic is that bees will make more honey instead of using their energy to make wax. But when I look more into it, the making of wax is something honey bees of a certain age are going to do and the keeper really has no real say in it. Sort of like how we grow hair. We may say that it takes 100 pounds of food to grow 1 pound of hair. So if I don’t cut my hair I can use that energy to do other things right? Or, I could cut my hair more often, and encourage myself to grow more and burn more calories, right? This is how the re-using wax logic looks to me. Sure, making wax takes energy, but just like growing hair, it’s something bees are going to do, anyway. The whole reason bees store honey in the first place is for their own energy to do things involved in living and being alive. If you re-use comb, the bees will still make wax, but they’ll just transport the stuff out of the hive with other refuse. So we might as well put this good, clean stuff to productive use.
Super medium #2 was the one that was full of honey and it was all capped this time around. I went ahead and took one frame out, replacing it with the empty I had taken the week before. In the next super box, there was a mixture of brood and honey, but it looked like it was gradually becoming more honey than brood, with half of them capped.
The brood box had some blank frames, where I had replaced the ones I had taken out for the new nuc. I had bouaght a few solid black plastic frames, and it’s safe to say the bees really do not like those at all. They had not done any drawing of those, while the remaining frames had a good mix of capped and open brood. Once again, the queen escaped being seen but there was plenty of evidence that she was in there, and still laying albeit at a slower rate. There were a lot of cells with nothing in them at all and it looked like there was more pollen cells than I remember seeing before.
After putting that hive back together, it was time to check the nuc.
After I removed the sheet and put the screen over the nuc, this seemed to settle the robbing issues from a week ago. Now as I observed, there were bees going in and out, but it wasn’t terribly busy. There was a stream of sugar ants working the feeder as I pulled it off. When I opened the hive, it looked much as it did when I installed it. No new wax, the honey was still capped and there were bees and capped brood. There was also one, small, solitary capped queen cell.
It’s not easy to see, but it’s a single little finger in the middle with a bee on it.
So the future of this little experiment rests upon that one cell hatching, the queen flying out, getting sufficiently mated and then returning.
Evidently, when I caged up the entrance, several of the robbers were in there and when they couldn’t escape, they were forced to become members of the hive. So it seems I might have inadvertently given the population an unintended boost.
When I checked them today, they seemed really calm and were cleaning up in and around their hive. The stream of ants were gone and the bees were regularly patrolling that area and putting the run on any ants still wandering around.
Looking at Micheal Bush’s little schedule and primer on bee math, if all goes well I should have a queen within a week and then some eggs within a couple more weeks.