Tuesday, July 15, 2014

wonders never cease

I have avoided my beehives this summer, except to feed the one that I knew was in trouble, and try to save comb for the top bar after I let the neighborhood bees rob it out.  I'd pretty much resigned myself to buying two new packages next spring and just letting the hundred bees remaining in the top bar hive do their thing until they died of old age (roughly 4-6 weeks, this time of year).  I was sad, and although I'm not much of an avoider, I avoided dealing with it.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the remaining bees seemed to be huddled in a clump, so I checked to see if there were eggs, but saw nothing.  They worked on rebuilding their combs for a bit, so I stopped checking.  That is, until this morning.  There seemed to be quite a lot of activity around the top bar hive, and at first I thought that there were just robber bees coming and going.  Except there's no honey to rob.  So I suited up and checked out the hive.
The first thing I noticed was this cluster of bees at the entrance.  Odd.  In weeks prior, I'd see maybe one or two,  This is closer to 30-40.  When you only have 100 bees in the colony, well, they're not hanging out like this.  Upon opening:
 This fat comb is covered with bees.  There hadn't been this many bees in the entire hive two weeks ago.  I saw that the blank top bars I'd put in between the fully drawn combs were full of bees, too.  That bright white you see below is brand new comb.
I ran inside and filled their feeder, brought it out, and am keeping my fingers crossed that whatever goodness is happening will keep up, and that maybe there's a new queen in the hive. 

Since I was in gear and had my smoker going (though there's no need for a smoker when there's no brood- or honey, for that matter- I lit it anyway because there were so many bees), I decided to check my other (langstroth) hive.  The queen in the new hive was never very active.  I didn't see any eggs or larvae, but I saw a lot of drones, a smattering of capped brood (both worker brood, which is flat, and drone brood, which protrudes like a pencil eraser), an on the bottom of one comb, a recently-vacated queen cup:
It's quite difficult to get a phone camera to focus through a mesh veil, but the perfect circle in the center of the photo is the empty queen cell.  I'm hopeful that she's made her mating flight and will begin to repopulate this hive. Keeping both hives fed and checking for brood each week will go back on my task list.  I'm so grateful that I salvaged what I could from my dying hive (especially in terms of comb, but I also harvested almost a gallon of honey) and I hope that what seemed like clearing the dead hive help rejuvenate it.    I'm waiting with baited breath.


  1. So happy for you and your bees!

  2. Bees are so interesting! Keeping my fingers crossed for you!