End of summer hive inspection

Went to the LCBO LGBT LCBA (Lanark County Beekeeper’s Association) summer meeting at one of the member’s bee yards today.  The guy from OMAFRA (the official provincial apiarist) was there giving out literature and advice, there was a delicious potluck lunch, and we mingled the way we do (which is generally not at all).  There was plenty of talk about varroa mites and American foulbrood and the newly invasive small hive beetle. All very frightening.

We came home and checked our hive for AFB, since it’s extremely contagious and 100% fatal.  It’s also icky:  the brood turn into a sticky brown slime with “the texture of mucus.”  We’ll have varroa, it’s almost 100% certain, but we need to get some ether or ethylene glycol and kill a few hundred bees just to see how bad it is.  The degree of infestation determines how aggressively you have to treat it before winter otherwise the hive will have reduced chances of a successful overwinter.

Checking the hive is fun.  It was a hot sunny day today (the best kind of day for checking your hive, because the bees are less grumpy).  We fired up the smoker and donned our cunning veiled hats and opened the hive.

Our hive setup is currently a single brood box with a full honey super (the full referring to height).  That means it’s got a really really heavy wooden box sitting on top of and stuck to the box where the queen and the eggs are.  The main thing about beehives is that everything is very sticky, and they’re full of angry buzzing bees that have little pointy bits on their bottoms.  We gave them puffs of smoke, which seems to make them giggle at inane jokes and go start eating honey, pried the top off, and discovered that a full honey super weighs between 50 and 100 pounds.  The little handles on the side of the box don’t give you a lot of grip (did I mention about the buzzing things with the pointy bits?).  Once we had the honey super off, we had to examine each of the ten frames of the brood box, and hope we didn’t squash the queen.


Brood comb with young in all stages of development.

The inside of the hive has oddles of this stick brownish-yellow goop called propolis. You have to pry each frame out with a special tool (called, imaginatively, a “hive tool”) and examine it closely. This is made harder by the fact that you’re wearing many layers of clothes on a hot sunny summer day and you can’t reach under your weil and push your bifocals up on your sweaty nose so you can actually see. The end frames on the brood box were empty. We were warned that that sometimes happens, so it wasn’t a shock. One frame was filled with drone cells, which are big and ugly. The rest had a mixture of grubs, closed cells, and either empty cells or cells with eggs (the eggs are small and pretty much impossible to see under our circumstances.

bess lined up

Workers at the honey factory cafeteria taking a break.

We saw no sign of AFB, and the fact that there were so many grubs and closed cells was a sign of a healthy queen. We couldn’t find the queen, but I kept shaking all the bees off when I pulled the frames so hopefully I had knocker her into the hive box.

After the inspection, we reassembled the hive. The honey super is full. Every frame is filled with honey and sealed. We will need to take some in a month or so to reduce the indcidence of wax moths or other nasties breeding where the bees don’t go in the cold. We left the girls to go about their business once again.

Examining a frame from the honey super.

Making honey.

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