Last week was the most beautiful spring weather, and like every other beekeeper our thoughts turned to the first inspection. What with the death of one of our two hives and other beekeepers reporting not only swarm preparation but also actual swarms, we approached our garage bees with some trepidation. They had been giving off all the signals of a healthy thriving colony: lots of activity around the hive, lots of pollen collecting etc. But my husband and I had also noticed what we thought looked like bee poo on our cars. Not that there was much around the hive itself, but why was there so much on the cars that it was noticeable to us? So trepidation it was….
First, we open it up
Things looked in pretty good shape upon cracking open the hive (propolis…). The super had bees in it and although somewhat empty of actual honey, quite a few of the cells were glistening with nectar. I take that as a good sign from bees usually a little reluctant to move up into supers in any sort of industrious way.
Also, no brood so the queen had not wandered up into the super. We usually remove our queen excluder during the winter and are always prepared for this type of result. So far, after a good few winters, we have never had queens laying in supers.
And much to our surprise….
Now, you have to understand that the garage bees have always been the weaker of the two hives going into and coming out of winter. So, we got a bit of a surprise when we started examining the brood box. Firstly, no sign of the fondant we had placed in the hive a month or so ago. Not even the plastic wrap (!). Secondly, although they were noisy, and flouncing about in an irritated manner, they were on the whole responding well to the smoke, diving down into the box instead of flying up at us. Curiouser and curiouser….
But nothing prepared us for the state of the frames: chock full of brood, larvae, bees about to hatch, brood prepared for capping etc. A full eight frames had brood on them. Usually, we are lucky to see brood spattered across four or five frames.
They weren’t the prettiest frames nor the most perfect brood pattern, but it was quite clear to me that she is a strong queen, still a few months shy of her first birthday, and her colony are ably supporting her.
I have to say that such enthusiastic laying was a little unsettling. What are they about? It would seem all that swarming last summer was their way of breeding an increasingly better queen for themselves. But why would they do that? Hadn’t they been happy with their usual lazy queens?
Invasion of the bee snatchers
It’s not just that when we smoked them, instead of deciding they had had enough as we progressed through the frames and getting pissed off at us, they politely filed outside and waited on the face of the hive for us to finish. It’s also that WE FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF AN IMMINENT SWARM! No queen cells, not even any fooling around with queen cups. And another thing: no drone brood. They were acting like normal, productive, happy-with-their-digs bees.
In other words, not like any bee we ever kept.
Not like our bees at all.
I just have a few questions:
Who are they? Where did they come from? And what do they want?
How lovely! I am about to take apart my two hives today. When I last looked, they were both dead and I have packages arriving soon. Can’t wait to have happy, active ladies back at work soon.
We have yet to clean up the ‘dead’ hive. We have a nuc we can use to hive a swarm. Maybe I’ll put off that depressing job until I know I have another set. Good luck with your new bees!
Congratulations!!! So happy that you have happy, or at least content, bees. Nice work! I had to commence a tear off and squish campaign just this week with one of my hives–they were overcrowded and apparently had decided they’d had enough. I need to keep a better eye on things.
Well, I’m not sure how much I had to do with their success, but I’ll take the congrats! I am assuming you are referring to the brace comb they got hanging and topping off everything?
I realize that my comment above is incomplete–a result of early morning blog reading and commenting, without full benefit of caffeine. I tore off and destroyed 8-10 queen cells. Yep, that’s right. We’d check both hives a couple of weeks ago, one was packed so we added another box, but Mufasa still had room to grow. In the intervening couple of weeks, with our massive spring blooms, Mufasa was busting at the seams–and planning to swarm. So, I’ve got to check both hives more often.
Doh! I should have realized that the old squish manoeuvre was related to queen cells. Eight! Still, you have to admire their industry….
Sounds like a happy spring!
Fingers and toes crossed!
They sound like aggressive, super-bees, even eating the plastic wrap!!! Happy spring–and honey!
Not aggressive, but they may indeed be vying for the title of Super Bee. I am hoping they haven’t eaten the plastic wrap, just dispensed with it in some fashion, like turning it into a piece of wall art, something like that….
It’s always nice to read happy bee stories! Our first spring went this way. We had heard all the worry about deadouts and swarms, but everything was going swimmingly in our hives! So we thought, “hey, we’ve got this thing licked”… boy were we wrong! haha!
Yeah, we had been chugging along for a few years without a loss. Just goes to show it comes to us all…
He he, always bewildering when things go well! Very happy for you, long may it continue.
Thanks, and glad to see things are going well with your allotment bees. It is a perversity of beekeeping, for me anyway, that I worry just as much when things go right as I do when things go wrong….
Very cool! I’ve had two swarms come by my house here in CA, which possibly could have been my colony. Only one of my colonies may it though the winter, but they are going strong! I have new package arriving the beginning of May. Yay for spring!
Good luck with your package of new bees. It’s always interesting to introduce some new bloodlines….
Congratulations! It sounds as if all your hard work is paying off!
I can’t claim all the credit, but thanks!
Well that is good news to read…. Michelle
Yes, but nothing like your good news! I hope mother and baby are well.
That was a stranger behavior: hanging out outside the super while you were inspect the hive.
That was the brood box. They were essentially trying to get away from the smoke. All filed back into the building once the drill was over!
I would like to know more about what the bees wanted, and what they were up to. Today is the summer solstice, and I live near some bee hives which aren’t mine. Today, one of the unused hives was suddenly swarming! I think the beekeepers added a new queen or something this spring, to one of the hives. All winter long, there was only one live hive and apparently only one live queen; and sometimes, walking by in the morning, I worried that the cold or the rain had killed her/them. This spring, the hive was healthy, though with not very many bees. Then, about 2 weeks ago, some of the beekeepers came out one day, I saw them at the hives driving by. Since, at least 1, and possibly 2 new hives. And it has seemed as thought they were swarming, this morning for example. -Is all of that normal?
All sounds normal. I think you would have to be a beekeeper to understand that a lot of activity outside a hive can mean different things. It could be swarming-which is not a bad thing, just means the hive has grown so much that some are looking for a new home. It could also mean new bees taking their practice flights. It could also mean that it is hot inside the hive. Lots of different meanings.
Don’t worry too much about bees and bad weather. They have their own coping mechanisms. True, they do not always work, and there are steps a beekeeper can take if she thinks there is a particular threat. But in general it works and if not, that’s life in the bee world. I would suggest you just enjoy watching them. Don’t worry!