Today I had an experience checking in on our hive that was both confidence building and unnerving. The first thing I noticed when I opened the hive after not having peeked inside for 2 weeks: HOLY CRAP THERE ARE TONS OF BEES IN HERE. It seems that the first round of babies hatched and the hive is now several times more full of bees than it was a couple weeks ago.
Even so, the girls are still busily making more babies. In this first photograph you can see that there is now both worker bee (female) brood as well as the first drone (male bee) brood that I have seen thus far.
In just 2 months these busy ladies have built up 9 combs of their own and filled them with honey, pollen, and tons of babies. That makes 11 combs total…and the bees only need 12 to get through the winter…the rest is pure profit for us :)
I have been concerned for several weeks about the top bars that we received with the bees (we purchased a nucleus - 2 developed combs and several lbs of bees - from a local beekeeper). The bars were originally designed for a Langstroth hive, but trimmed down to fit our top bar hive, and they have always stuck out a bit and didn’t quite fit in the way they should. The combs are built with plastic guides, as opposed to just building down naturally from the top bar. Regardless, I was just glad that with the lack of rain our girls had something to start with, and they seemed to be doing well despite the drought.
However, whenever I would open the hive there would be bees all over the two foreign top bars, and they seemed agitated that it stuck out and probably let air and impurities leak into the hive…I think they were trying to seal it up with propolis but the gaps were too large. So today I decided that I was going to trim it down and make it fit more snugly so the girls wouldn’t have to stress about their poor architectural situation. The 2 combs in question were full of both honey and brood, and with the ominous lack of rain I was concerned about tempting fate by destroying either food or babies, but was left with little other choice than to trim them down or pull them out entirely.
Cutting through brood is very…gooey. And cutting open some of the more developed brood comb revealed little alien-like half developed bees, which was really interesting and (not gonna lie) made me feel a little creeped out.
By the time I was done trimming the comb I felt pretty exhausted from bending over for so long, I cut my finger somehow in the process, and the bees seemed to be getting agitated. I don’t know if it was from the change of temperature inside the hive with me pulling all the bars out for extended periods of time or just the general disruption of hive life, but I got a terrible sinking feeling when the possibility occurred to me that it could have been that I somehow smashed the queen that set the hive into that agitated state (since I hadn’t consciously thought to locate her before I started my construction work). I am pretty sure that was just me being paranoid, but even so it was a humbling experience remembering how much I still have to learn about beekeeping and the crazy complex world of bees.
Still, the take away from this story is that for anyone who is afraid of bees stinging them while they are just sitting around minding their own business… today I opened up the hive, shook the bees up, turned them sideways, and cut into/killed their babies - and they were STILL as friendly as ever. I think that says a lot about the overall complacent and adaptable nature of bees.