The rains of autumn are upon us, and the change of season is getting down to business. I have one big leaf maple that’s half yellow leaves, but most of the rest of the trees are still green. Even the cottonwoods are staying green. It seems like the trees don’t want summer to end this year either. Perhaps because they had it easy, relatively speaking – plenty of rain for most of the summer, and less of the usual summer drought stress to contend with. I’ve had a busy couple of weekends, and more to come, so I’m taking a moment to catch up.
I was able to do a complete beehive inspection the first weekend of October, rather miraculously. The forecast was calling for clouds and rainshowers but as I got ready to leave for some weekend errands on Sunday it was warm and kind of sunny, and looked like it would hold for a while. And it did. So instead of leaving for the afternoon, I postponed my trip out and I donned my beek gear, got out the tools and equipment and set up. I got the smoker going, then managed to mostly snuff it out, as I tend to do. I’d puffed the hive a few times while it was going good, and began the process. It was warm, midday, and since the sun wasn’t shining full on (weak cloud cover), it wasn’t too sweaty with the gear and exertion. I did have one trickle of perspiration go down my back at one point that gave me pause, but I’ve learned to wear my veil and jacket correctly, so the bees can’t get up inside any more (early in the season I found if I pulled it down too low (to my thighs) there were gaps the bees could crawl up…a little bee found her way in one time, but no harm to either of us).
I pulled the entire hive apart, frame by frame, and found everything to be in good order. I even saw Queenie, agile and active on a frame in the middle box. The top box, or super, was packed with honey stores, as I expected. They had repaired my damage from the “harvest” I’d done on the one frame the week before (see previous post), but hadn’t had enough time to do much in the way of rebuilding or refilling. It will probably be next year before they spend much time in that regard. Right now the goal is to fill and back fill any open comb, and they’re doing a nice job at that. The second box was also filled healthy amounts of honey and pollen, and I didn’t see a single drone brood cell (though there were a few drones milling about I could see a few dead ones on the stoop too – they’re no longer welcome in the hive, as they are useless to the bees (don’t gather nectar, nor perform any hive tasks), and are kicked out.
The main hive body – bottom box – was the lightest of the bunch, as it should be, though there was some activity with back filling honeycomb, which I was glad to see. There is no brood this time of year and the main hive body is the main brood rearing area, so the girls were right on target. It was a little disconcerting as I got down to that bottom box, as the entire hive was activated by that point. They were much calmer though, midday and warm, than my late afternoon/evening inspections that felt like bear raids. I got off without a sting this time, and though a couple of the girls were peeved, I didn’t get that angry, ominous buzzing that I’d heard last time (and that caused me to pack it in without doing much more than checking the top box). I dusted them with powdered sugar, which they dislike, and when I checked the bottom board I didn’t see any varroa mites (a sucking parasite that lives on the bees; the sugar dislodges them from the bees). There may have been mites and I failed to recognize them and/or just couldn’t see them (too tiny) but nothing was moving in the clutter. I did find some fat maggoty worms under the bottom board and on the underside of the lid (outside the hive) – not sure what they belong to; the most likely suspect is wax moths (larvae), a destructive hive pest (eats beeswax), but I didn’t see them in the hive itself, only in areas they couldn’t reach the comb. Something to watch, at any rate.
All in all it was a satisfying inspection and nice to be able to do before the onset of fall and winter. I thought my window of opportunity had passed me by, so it was a lucky break. The weather turned that evening, but I’d done the inspection early enough that everyone had time to get back into the hive and get things in order after my invasion. I did notice some odd behavior later that day and the next, where there were a couple dozen bees on a felt cat bed I’d left on the deck to wash (but forgotten to). Pal alerted me to it (was hunting the bees) and I couldn’t make sense of it at first. The nearest I could tell was that they were wicking water from it to drink (it was mildly damp from being out in the weather). The pond is just off the deck and I didn’t see any bees there, but I couldn’t figure out what else it might be. I poured a glass of water in the center of the bed and sure enough, the bees were on that area in preference. I think because they hadn’t been out much in previous days they’d gotten thirsty. The synthetic felt was a great way for them to drink without the danger of a puddle of water or the unwieldiness of a water droplet on a leaf. I’m going to repurpose the cat bed for the bees (the cat has another bed just like this one) and move it closer to the hive, too. Off the deck, anyway.