Beekeeping 101 – Hive Inspection
Just what is going on inside the hive anyway?
The frustrating thing about beekeeping is maintaining patience. As I pointed out in previous posts, patience is indeed a virtue. The bees do what they want to do, when they want to, where they want to. When you keep bees, at least as a newb, you want to check on them all the time to make sure they are doing their bee thing. You poke about, open the hives, look around, sit and watch, and pine for some activity to alert you to what the bees are up to.
As this is our second month into beekeeping this inspection was enlightening. The bees are doing fine without our assistance. The first inspections had us worried though. There didn’t seem to be a lot of comb building or new brood in the hives. The hives were alternately active and inactive. One day Ruby was going gangbusters, the next Mom was ripping up a storm. Our first inspection allowed us to see both queens while the next inspection we only saw Ruby.
On this inspection we saw Mom but not Ruby. However we know that both queens are there by what the frames showed us. There was capped brood in both hives meaning the queens are present and laying eggs. We’ve yet to see eggs but we have seen larvae…in both hives. The eggs are extremely tiny and we figure once we get a better handle on what to look for it will give us another indicator of what’s going on inside the hives. The patience thing again.
Today brood comb was plentiful meaning the queens have laid eggs in the last three and one-half to nine days. Let me explain. Bees are incredibly timely little buggers, like the Swiss rail system. This predicability is helpful to the beekeeper because when you see larvae you know that they hatched from eggs within 3 1/2 days. So the queen had to be present to lay the eggs that are hatched. When you see capped cells you know that were capped between 8 and 10 days ago and will emerge in 20 to 24 days depending if they are workers or drones.
In this inspection we saw larvae that are about 4 or 5 days old and larvae that are capped so it’s at least 9 days old. So we know there are bees being born soon and another batch on the way. All we need is patience. Here is a bee timetable from egg to bee activity.
Queens will hatch in 3 1/2 days, will be capped in 8 days (+/- 1) and emerge in 16 days (+/- 1) they will begin laying eggs in about 28 days (+/- 5)
Workers will hatch in 3 1/2 days, will be capped in 9 days (+/- 1) and emerge in 20 days (+/- 1) they will begin foraging in about 42 days (+/- 7)
Drones will hatch in 3 1/2 days, will be capped in 10 days (+/- 1) and emerge in 24 days (+/- 1) they will begin mate in about 28 days (+/- 5)
There is a little more to this than the above but the upshot is a pretty regular schedule. Our next challenge is to hope for a heavy fall nectar flow where fall weeds an flowers produce lots of nectar and pollen for the bees to harvest. This will allow them to build more comb, lay more eggs, and hatch more bees so the colonies are strong going into winter for survival…a whole different set of worries.
What we saw today though is promising, more so than our first two inspections. Click on any image to see a slideshow of the inspection.