early august hive inspection

My hives are just over 3 months old, and there really hasn’t been too much action in this past month of July.  The New York nectar flow has slowed, and without more nectar, bees can’t make more honey. Bill and I inspected my two hives this weekend and found mostly the same conditions as several weeks ago — the brood chambers (the bottom two supers) are dark brown with a mixture of capped brood, visible pupas, pollen stores, and some nectar and honey. I think there is less brood than before, which would make sense because the queen doesn’t lay as many eggs if there’s not as much foraging to be done. The third supers are full of beautiful white-capped honey. The fourth supers, where my honey should be, are empty; the comb isn’t even drawn out.

In May and June, every two or three weeks there was a dramatic increase in brood, bees, and honey. I guess I thought that would go on forever. Turns out the nectar flow season is really short, and the spring’s nectar flow must have slowed then stopped without me noticing. If it picks up again in September, I will hopefully harvest fall honey this year.

a frame from the third super, filled with capped honey, which the bees will eat this winter

I know what you’re thinking. That frame is loaded with honey — it’s heavy with honey! It’s dehydrated to perfection and ready for extracting and eating. Yes, I could harvest this honey (40+ lbs in each hive), but if I did, the bees would not have food to survive the winter. I could feed them sugar water all winter to replace what I had robbed, but it would be like living on an IV for them, and I would feel like a jerk.

frames in the 4th super, empty after almost a month on top of the hive

I decided to experiment on the stronger hive, which has totally filled their third super with honey, but remained disinterested in the fourth, or top super. I mixed up frames from the third and fourth, so that instead of one empty super on top of the queen excluder, there are two half-full supers on top. The idea is that the bees will not like the feeling of a super’s work half-done, and they will be encouraged to fill up the empty frames with honey. Bees also like to work from the bottom up, so if there are frames completed overhead, I hope they will want to fill in the holes below. This is an improvised solution based on the idea of bottom supering, which tries to exploit the bees’ desire to fill a hive from the bottom up.

Hopefully I have adjusted this hive in a way that will encourage the bees to fill it up when plants bloom again in the fall. I didn’t mess with the other hive so I could compare strategies. I don’t know if it was ok to make this adjustment a month or so in advance of the next nectar flow. Funny, there’s just no info on nectar blooms in Brooklyn… so I’m not sure when it’s going to happen!

We saw some drone cells,  and I cut them off the comb. Drones are the males, and many beekeepers kill them because they eat a lot of honey and don’t do any work. Other beekeepers find it odd to kill off all males in a colony. I’m not sure which camp I fall into, but I did cut these drone cells away. Out fell the bee-shaped pupae; perfect primordial drone figurines, probably just days away from emerging out of the cell. That drone would  have known feasts of honey, but famine in his love life, as his only potential partner is the queen, and she’s already been impregnated and therefore not interested.

a bee pupa

It’s good I cut these drone cells away, because upon further inspection of them, Bill found unwelcome guests — varroa mites. This is a big problem that I am not ready to talk about yet.

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