A couple of days after installing two packets of bees into two beehives, it was time to check the hives to make sure the queens were out of their cages and to see if all was well.
I had been peeking into the top bar hive (an alternative form of hiving) through the observations window morning and night. The bees appeared to be in a large ball. I was worried they were planning to leave. So, I started with the Top Bar Hive (TBH) first.
What I had been seeing were bees gathering around honey comb. I took that to be a great sign though I was unable to locate the queen or see any eggs. I quickly re-assembled the hive.
Next, I went on to the Langstroth hive.
I pulled off the queen excluder (a screen that keeps the queen from crossing over into the honey area).
I had decided to remove that altogether. When I removed it, there was honeycomb attached to it–burr comb. It fell off because of the improper attachment. That was my fault for leaving the space in between frames too wide to accommodate the queen cage. The comb was fascinating and pure white. Hard to believe they build that in only two days.
After pulling out a few frames to inspect, I saw they had started to draw out honeycomb on the frames in the correct fashion.
Two weeks after the install, I was due to check the hives again for queens and larvae/eggs/progress. So, I relaxed them with a little pine, lavender and sage smoke…
I pulled out a frame and there was definite progress.
We were able to spot the queen, eggs, larvae, capped cells, drones, pollen, honey, and all sorts of things.
And I also saw something that looked like a swarm cell. This means they are possibly reproducing a queen for some reason… At the time I type this, I am still uncertain what they are planning… I have been advised to take a “wait-and-see” approach which aligns with what I know about not interfering with them too much.
So, onto the TBH with a little smoke…
I pulled out a bar furthest away from the center and saw lots of happy bees holding on tight to one another.
Then, when I tried to pull out one of the central bars to search for “Her Majesty” the queen, I was met with resistance. I slowly eased it out, but the remaining five bars all came out with it…. uh oh.
They had built all of that in only two weeks! While extremely beautiful, I knew that was a problem. If they kept building that way, they would quickly run out of room and pack up their bags and head for he hills with the queen. Plus, not being able to pull out one bar at a time becomes insanely difficult when the combined weight of an established hive is all attached together.
So, I quickly closed up the hive and went in to do some research and phone some friends. The advice I received was that I would have to re-open the hive, cut the comb off of the bars and tie it back on the correct way. Yep, that did not sound like fun.
I didn’t get pictures of this mess because I needed all the help and free hands I could get to hold the comb and bar while I tied. Bees were everywhere. Honey was dripping and running all over our hands and the ground which is sort of heartbreaking if you know how much work it takes a bee to make even the smallest droplet of honey.
I knifed through the comb and stacked it in a clean container. I tied. The string cut through the wax. Sections of the comb bent. Some of it was crushed. Bees were killed. It was awful.
I had to work gloveless because it was next to impossible to tie string with honey soaked gloves. I did not get stung.
Everything was thrown back into the hive and the bees that had fallen into the holding container were dumped back in. I never saw the queen and can only hope I did not accidentally destroy her. There was a queen because the comb was filled with eggs and capped cells.
After it was all closed up again, I looked at the entrance and saw bees lined up with their stingers pointing out… a last line of defense as they desperately tried to protect their home. Little warriors all lined up waiting to die for what they know.
So, I will go to sleep tonight with bees in my brain. I am hoping beyond hope they pull through this. Somehow I think they will. I imagine in two weeks when I check again, they will serve me another challenge.