It’s the Bees Time of the Year

The hive we've named "Jupiter" built a small tunnel at the top of their box.

The hive we’ve named “Jupiter” built a small tunnel at the top of their box.

My car windshield is covered in pollen each morning, so I think the bees must be happy. They’ve been building up their hives, and I watch the workers fly in and out of their entrance at a steady pace most days. I have been inspecting them each weekend, so here is a brief update.

We put on a medium super on our two Langstroth hives last weekend as I was worried the bees might fill up the bottom box. I added some 1:1 sugar syrup to both Lang’s top feeders to encourage their cell building activities. I checked the syrup on Saturday, and what I call the first hive was doing fine. The bees in the second hive were literally drowning in syrup. Poor bees. The plastic floater was sinking, I think, and the wet bees couldn’t climb up the walls.

Unsure what to do, I called my bee mentor, Kristen, and she advised (duh!) that if the bees are drowning, take the feeder off. So I scooped out the damp bees as much as possible near the front of the hive, and dumped the dead bees and syrup farther away. There should be plenty of nectar so I think I’ll let them forage on their own for a bit.

On Sunday I opened up the boxes.  In the first hive I found the bees building comb in bottom box and the super. They were nearly done with the syrup, and again I decided to let this run out so they can forage on their own. I got so caught up looking at comb and working bees that I forgot to check for larva or brood or anything else. I had just seen the queen the week before, so I am not worried about this hive.

In the second hive I again was caught up looking at comb and bees and did what can only be called a poor inspection. The picture for this post shows the top of the deep box for this hive. I saw what I think were two capped queen cups, and another cup where a bee was deep inside. After this bee moved I think maybe (?) I saw a queen larva in there. Again I forgot to look for worker larva and brood, and am still not sure how to handle this hive. Right now the plan is to leave it for a week or so. I don’t want to stress the queen more than I already have, and if I accidentally killed her off I want to allow the bees to replace her. If they swarm, I’m not sure what I will do. Hopefully I am just worrying too much and the bees will sort it out. Stay tuned.

I clearly have to work on the quality of my inspections. My helpers were busy so I was on my own, and while I keep an online hive inspection sheet, it was not with me. So next time I will take a clipboard or notebook with a printed checklist as a reminder. A post on beesource.com referenced an article on how to do inspections, so perhaps I need to modify my sheet to adopt their more prescriptive list.

150510 TBH CombsThe top bar hive looks great. The picture here shows a view through the window before I opened it up. As you can see the last combs seem a little crooked, something I wasn’t fully prepared for. I also had trouble detaching combs from the side, afraid of squishing comb of bees. After a few tries the bees were buzzing me and I realized I needed to be done. I inserted two empty bars between some of the better comb to encourage additional straight comb, and posted a thread on beesource.com asking for some advice. According to the feedback, I need to buy a serrated bread knife (who knew!).

Keeping with the spirit of a poor inspection, I failed to count the number of finished comb, but I would guess we are up to 8 to 10. I saw nectar and honey stores, capped worker and drone brood, and a nice pattern of larva on one frame. Go bees! I replaced their jar of sugar syrup and closed it up.

We are learning real-life lessons and gaining practical experience, so I can’t complain. This weekend I plan to fix the crooked comb, and otherwise leave the bees alone. I think they could use a break from me.


Bees were all over the holly bushes in our yard until about a week ago. We had plenty of buzzing visitors even before my bees arrived. It made me think of the Christmas song “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” written by Johnny Marks in 1964 and made famous by Burl Ives.

The song has nothing to do with holly, other than the name, but the second line of the song goes “It’s the best time of the year.” A slight modification made a good title for our post.

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5 thoughts on “It’s the Bees Time of the Year

  1. I’ve had the heart breaking find of dead bees in a feeder before, it’s really sad to find. Sorry to say this but if you found queen cells they will either be planning to swarm or trying to replace the queen. The more queen cells found, the more likely swarming is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found our queen in the feeder once and just managed to fish her out in time to return her safely to the hive. She went on to lay a good colony that year with a wonderful crop of honey and leaving us a good daughter to replace her at the end of the season.

    I like your measured approach to beekeeping of waiting a while to find out what the bees will do before jumping in. I think all beekeepers must miss about 50:50 of what is actually going on inside the hive, the bees are too good at hiding things from even the most experienced of us!

    A lovely post, I’m looking forward to catching up with more this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

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