Warning: there is a spider at the end of this post. I used to be scared of spiders, not so much now.
We checked the hives yesterday and we had one of the hive namesakes to help out (Olga). We currently have three bee suits, which Mr. Neil, Olga, and I wore. Non Birding Bill came along too, but he wore the pith helmet with a net and a set of gloves. The rest of his outfit was a red t-shirt and gray sweats. I admired his bravery (or foolhardy attitude), although he wasn't digging around in the hives like I was, only staying back and taking a few photos.
Here is Mr. Neil showing a frame of burr comb from the bottom brood box of the Olga hive. Olga is giving the frame a puff of smoke. She still prefers to think of her bees as striking out new ground and innovative design as opposed to being problem bees. Actually, since I've started using the frame spacing tool, we haven't had too much of a problem with bees making the funky come.
Here's an up close look at the comb. If you recall, when I first posted a photo of Olga's odd comb, it was light in color and now looking at it above, it has darkened quite a bit. All normal and to be expected as the wax ages. Most of the worker brood has hatched on the above frame and there are quite a few drone cells.
We wanted to check both the top and the bottom boxes to make sure that all looked healthy and happy, see if we need to reverse the position of any of the boxes to encourage more brood. Some brood cells had been built between the two brood boxes and we exposed some larvae. We had to scrape them off and I felt awful about it, but the comb couldn't stay there. That is one tough part of beekeeping--you will kill some of the bees. Every time you go out, some of your colony will perish--some workers will sting your gloves and die, some bees just will not get out of the way when you put the hive back together (I hate crunching sound), or you have scrape away brood cells that are not in an appropriate area.
Despite some of our killing we did see new life. If you look at the above photo (towards the top and towards the left corner), you can see a new worker who has just finished pupating, chewing her way out of her cell--new life emerging into our hive! That was really exciting. Int he lower right hand corner is both a worker bee and a larger drone.
Here's a great frame shot! On the bottom is bright yellow capped brood (pupating into new workers) and some uncapped brood still growing. Above that is a layer of workers tending to the uncapped brood and feeding on honey. The top is the lighter colored capping is honey--all honey--properly aged and everything! Mr. Neil got some of it on the hive tool and we took a taste. Earlier in the season we had tasted the uncapped honey, which basically means that it had more moisture in it and wasn't true honey and could ferment. After the worker bees regurgitate the nectar into the cells, they fan it, evaporating the water from the regurgitated nectar and raising the sugar concentration. When the nectar has evaporated to less than 18.6% moisture, it will not ferment and that is when the bees cap it. When there is capping, you have true honey. We tasted it, our first true honey from our hives. Before we had tasted promise, this time, we tasted perfection. I was so proud of my girls.
All looked well, Olga had filled both brood boxes and was ready for a third brood box. I remembered from my notes in the beekeeping short course that three brood boxes were essential to overwintering our bees to insure that they would have enough honey and pollen stores--however, I couldn't remember if I needed to use the queen excluder at this point to that it would only be filled with honey and no brood. I reread my manual and couldn't figure it out, so I emailed the professor. She said to not use the queen excluder until I would put on our honey supers for our own consumption, that the queen have access to the the third box. So, no queen excluder for the moment. Kitty is now about three frames behind Olga, so we did not add a third brood box to her. We'll check again next weekend and then let them go. Hopefully, by mid July, we might be able to add our own honey supers and then use the queen excluder.
And since we're talking about bugs at Mr. Neil's house, I thought I would add a few more. I don't know about where you live, but around here I am noticing a TON of red admiral butterflies. The drive way was covered with them yesterday!
Ewww! Spider--with an egg sac. At first glance, I thought this was a wolf spider. Someone else speculated garden spider. I remember once seeing a wolf spider with her back covered in babies, but some quick Internet research showed that wolf spiders carry their egg sacs in back and this girl was carrying her eggs in front.
Also, looking at the photo, this spider has very thin legs compared to wolf spiders. What could it be? Well, I googled "spider egg sac" and quickly found the answer. Turns out, this is a nursery web spider who carry their eggs sacs in their jaws (in front) as opposed to wolf spiders who carry them on their spinnerets (in back).
I don't know if this photo does the spider justice--it was quite large. And now we return to our the regularly scheduled bird updates to the blog...and quite possibly another porcupet post is in the works.