My hive inspection following swarms

Thought people might be interested in my inspection of my two hives this afternoon.

The aim was to find out what was happening as both hives have swarmed recently. I had not inspected inside the hives since 20 March.

“Phacelia” Colony

Phacelia put out a primary swarm on Thursday and a secondary one yesterday.

There were 16 bars and all were built on. 16 and 15 had capped honey and there was a certain amount of cross combing with the next comb. Cut them free. From then on the combs were pretty uniform with not much stuff in the honeycomb – mostly scattered capped brood and both uncapped and capped honey, some pollen. There were twelve empty queen cells on eight of the combs but no more fresh ones. I understand that the number of empty queen cells means that any weaker queens have probably been killed by the stronger queen(s).

I saw a young-looking (slim) queen on bar 4. She will be going out for her mating flight soon. There is lots of room for laying – no larvae spotted. I added an extra bar between 2 and 1, so left the hive with 17 bars. The bees were relatively philosophical about my intrusion – some got a bit buzzy, especially over bar 4.

I was not surprised to find that Phacelia had very little honey (or anything else for that matter, except bees) – when bees are about to swarm, they tank up on honey for three days’ fuel supply, to keep them going till they find a new home.

 “Wolvercote” Colony

Wolvercote put out a primary swarm on 24 April – two weeks and two days ago – so I was keen to see what progress the bees have made since then. (By the way – we understand that swarms have been unusually late this year – unlike April 2014 when things got going really early! So my bees have been on the ball, so to speak.)

There were 17 bars and it was so much easier to manipulate than Phacelia (this is my newest hive with some modifications) and I was really pleased with the way it is performing). The only bar which had adhesions was 6 and I know its side craft stick is too close to the window/wall. Otherwise all the bars were clear of the walls and easy to remove. There were no queen cells at all. I stopped inspecting after bar 6, because the bees were quite buzzy and everything looked OK.

17 had two very small fresh combs with uncapped honey. From then on there was a fair amount of capped or uncapped honey (16 and 15 were heavy), pollen, capped brood on 14 to 6 and larvae seen on 12, 11 and 9 at least. I saw a nice-looking queen on bar 10. I’d like to add one or two more bars as most of the combs were occupied and I don’t want them to swarm again.

I didn’t really enjoy doing Phacelia as it was pretty sticky with lots of propolis and a bit of cross-combing which needed separating but I had recovered my composure by the end of Wolvercote. The inspection probably took about an hour. We left them to it and came home for tea, because they really wanted us to go away.


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