It's always a good idea to keep a Bee Journal - full of notes on your observations on the progress of your hives. I'll be doing so digitally, with my series called "Bee Notes" here on the Fox's Garden blog.
Bee Notes is a series of observations about my two hives - two separate colonies and superorganisms.
Hive 1 & Queen 1 is named Adela.
Hive 2 & Queen 2 is named Helena.
Holy cow has it been busy! There's been so much going on here at the Garden.
We're at the start of summer which means my hive inspections have slowed down. I'll be checking out the hives every 10 - 14 days instead of every 7 days. This is to give the girls "some space" and time to work on their hives without interruption.
The past month has been WET. The ridiculous amount of rain has really interfered with both my bee's activity and my ability to conduct scheduled inspections and maintenance.
It's been a doozy - very touch and go.
Here's what's been happening in the last month.
Oh, Adela - you sure keep me on my toes.
My scheduled inspection of Adela went well. The hive looked strong.
The bees had clear wings and were active in all parts of the hive. There were eggs, larva, and capped brood.
The girls have drawn comb on all of the frames in the second deep box I installed in May. Adela, herself, had even visited the second deep box - as I could see loads of lovely little eggs laid neatly in the new comb.
Nectar stores were slowly building up on the outer frames of the second deep box.
The first deep box was filled to the brim with brood and eggs. Honey stores outlined the outer frames. Everyone looked pretty happy. So I left it at that.
A week later I returned to the box to take a look at the inspection board and wash it off.
Inspection boards are plastic boards that sit at the very bottom of the hive. These boards collect the trash that falls from the frames and allows beekeepers to remove the fallen wax, pollen, trash, etc, and keep the bottom of the hive tidy.
Proactively cleaning your inspection board is important to keep pests from nesting in the debris that piles up at the bottom of a hive.
Like some kind of beekeeping divination, the inspection boards are also a neat way to learn about what's happening inside the hive without disturbing the colony too much.
The grid system on the board lets you pinpoint what trash fell from which frame/area of the hive.
For example, you can see how the majority of the debris lays toward the center of the board. This falls in the line with your typical hive pattern in the idea that the majority of the colony is located in the center of the hive - the bees keep their honey (food reserves) towards the outer edges or frames.
Inspection boards contain all kinds of neat secrets.
Some secrets aren't so neat, however.
Upon inspection, the bees are looking active. The comb had been drawn, but unlike Adela's colony - no eggs on the upper frames. Helena's colony has been consistently behind Adela's. Not that that's a bad thing. Helena's hive has also never had signs of a swarm. Or mold.
Pieces of the outside of the hive looked fluffy and black, similar to mildew I've found in bathrooms over the years.
I freaked out a bit. My mind raced, creating an image of sheer destruction within the hive. I pictured a molded out mess - like a horror movie - comb, bees, frames all destoryed and covered in an evil mold.
My inspection was scheduled for a week later, but I just didn't have it in myself to wait.
I suited up, grabbed my smoker, and cracked into the hive of Adela.
Luckily, it was not as I had imagined. The hive still looked strong and healthy. A bit damp, granted, but healthy. The bottom box was not full of mold. I even saw eggs that had been laid and larva growing steadily and strong.
Oh, and surprise, surprise! Queen cells were forming on some of the frames again.
Is Adela weak and dying? Were the bees afraid she would die in this damp? Is the colony growing too large again?
Only time will tell.
Helena's hive is doing well.
Upon inspection the bees are looking active.
There were eggs, larva, and capped brood (A LOT OF IT). Lots of bee bread (pollen stores) to feed all the incoming bee babies.
I freaked out a bit. My mind raced, creating an image of sheer destruction within the hive. I pictured a molded out mess - like a horror movie - comb, bees, frames all destroyed and covered in an evil mold. ng. Helena's hive has also never had signs of a swarm. Or mold.
Gee whiz, this rain. It's really taking its toll on the bees.
My hives are still kicking and shaking. The question becomes an issue of "Will they come up with enough honey to survive the winter?"
Who knows with this weather.
My goal right now is to stay on top of feeding them. This has been tricky with all the rain.
Tricky because I can't get out to the hives in stormy conditions. Difficult because there is nothing dry to light the smoker with. Frustrating all together.
Guess what? It's raining again.