April 25, 2015

First Hive Check

My honeybees were installed last Saturday. After several days it is recommended to check on the queen, to see if she has been released from her cage. Since we had a forecast for deluge all week I took advantage of the first break in the weather to take a look. No photos of this and I'm sorry for that, because the whole thing is so interesting. Right now I'm doing this solo because Dan's at work, and a camera at this stage of my beekeeping experience would be in the way. In the caption to the photo below, I give a brief description of what's what, so hopefully my description makes sense.

Green box is the roof, the unpainted part is the feeder. On top of the feeder is the 
quilt box, hidden from view by the roof section. 2 hive boxes are used at first. The
queen  cage was put  on the topbars of the bottom box; bees were dumped on top

I removed the roof, quilt, and feeder. I was amazed at how much comb had already been built. It all appeared to be following the topbars, which is indeed a good thing, because Warré hived bees are notorious for building comb every whichaway. Next I removed the top hive box and gently set it aside.

I found the queen cage where I'd placed it, but under a pile of bees. I poofed the bees away with my bee smoker and discovered that the queen was still in her cage. It had only been a couple of days so I could have left her in longer, but considering the weather I decided to release her. Opinions vary on how long to give the bees to get her out, but most agree that if she's been with them for at least two days she will usually be accepted.

Now empty queen cage. The white in the top compartment is
candy. If you look closely, you can see where I'd poked a hole
through it. The hole at the cage bottom was where I let her out.

The queen cage has two openings, one filled with candy, through which the bees work to release her. There is also a corked opening on the other end in case a direct release is needed. I removed the cork, set the cage back down, and she walked right out.

After removing the now empty queen cage I reassembled the hive, topped off the feeder, and left the bees to get on with their bee business. As soon as I got back into the house it began to pour!

A small block of wood was used to narrow the hive
opening by about two-thirds. This helps the new
colony better defend the hive from robbers & the like.

The thing to watch for was pollen being brought in. Pollen is the bees' source of protein and is fed to baby bees (larvae). It is mixed with nectar and bee secretions in what is known as "bee bread." If the bees are bringing in a good amount, it means the queen is present and laying.

I'm not yet sure what a "good amount" is, so I still experience a lot of concern as to whether everything is going well. There was only a trickle at first, but I've noticed that pollen deliveries have increased quite a bit as the days pass, so I'm taking that as a good sign!

Next - Bee Plants - Expanding My Definition of Edible


1st Man said...

Ha, I love the synchronicity...I went out yesterday to check on the queens in our hives too. Ours were out of the cages and I saw some comb already being built. I didn't know about the pollen, I will have to look for that this weekend! Thanks. Here's to lots of honey for all in a few months! :-)

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Yeah for you! we've raised bees for many years and they are so fascinating. When our granddaughter showed some fear at age 6 we got her her own suit and now she is the one(at age 10) who insists on helping Keith with all the bee duties. Honey...nothing is better!

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Is your queen marked?

Leigh said...

1st Man, I second the motion! And I hope you got lots of good pictures. :)

Donna, that's a great idea! Are you taking your hives with you?

Gill, yes!

Elaine said...

Love seeing the progression of your beekeeping, makes me want my own hive

Unknown said...

Go Queenie. What bee wouldnt be proud to leave and hurry back to such a beautiful home.

Mama Mess said...

So very interesting! I am very much enjoying these bee posts and I'm glad things seem to be moving along nicely!

Leigh said...

Elaine, we've wanted bees for years. So glad it's finally a reality!

Lynda, I hope so. But who knows what bees really think, LOL

Goodwife, it's exciting to see it finally happening. I'm hoping for more hives next year. :)

Renee Nefe said...

glad your hive is doing well.
my friend just moved a swarm from another friend's house into a hive at his house...so far all the bees seem happy in their new home. Hoping that the extra bees mean extra honey and I can get some. :D

Leslie Eichler said...

Hi Leigh, First time commenting, long time reader. I was really excited to read that you were getting bees. I look forward to your bee posts. Thanks for taking the time to post your goat stories, gardening stories, and now bee stories. You've been a real encouragement to me to pursue my dream. From years of planning/dreaming/waiting I'm down to just 2 months before we make a big move. Thanks for the inspiration!

Erika keller said...

Cool! Keep all the great info coming!

Farmer Barb said...

I do so enjoy honey on the comb. It makes me dream about it when I see your little friends. My fruit bushes are beginning to bloom now and I don't see any pollinators! Boo, hoo! I guess a hive is in my future next year...

Sandy Livesay said...


Your description in your post made total sense. It's good you released your queen instead of waiting. If the bee's are bringing back pollen it's a good sign :-) I'm so excited for you!!!

M.E. Masterson said...

Beautiful Bee House!!

Debby Riddle said...

I sure am enjoying all this!

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

Woot! :) Where are the photos of you in the suit, doning the smoker all Charlies Angels like?

Leigh said...

Renee, thanks! I hope you get some of that extra honey too. :)

Leslie, hello and thank you so much for taking the time to comment! How exciting that your own dream will soon becoming true. Are you planning to start a blog to chronicle your adventure?

Erika, it's an exciting venture and I love to share!

Sandy, thank you for that! I hope next time to get a few photos. :)

Mary, thanks!

Debby, thank you! Have you thought about getting honeybees?

Cloud, LOL You're too much. Selfies are even less rare than beehive photos around here. :)

Unknown said...

Re your reply - im hoping they dont think at all (though they have a great sense of direction and being able to find their way back). Im hoping that they have been dementia so that every day is a fresh day to enjoy and they dont remember all the work they do. Such a hard life for a little worker bee. (She's loopy - i know thats what you are thinking).

Leigh said...

It's an interesting question, actually. As I sit and watch them I wonder about communication. We all know about the bee dances but I can't help but wonder if they don't have a sort of telepathy. They certainly have something most humans don't - a sense of purpose! And they seem to be "happy" in their work. Most humans spend more time trying to get out of work than actually working, LOL

Gill - That British Woman said...

that is so neat and I love the look of your hive with that extra bit of painting on it. I am not a fan of honey unless it is disguised amongst other things.

Mark said...

Leigh, that's wonderful! It seems your bees are on their way. I'm enjoying seeing the hives being on your homestead and others. Bees are on my "must have' list but I need to get caught up on a good handful of ongoing projects before I pick up another one.