Looking for the Queen

In my last post, I talked about the new drone cells and the cups bees use to start queen cells. Over the next couple of days I did lots of reading about queen cells, swarming, and general bee hive activity. I found a series of articles by a long-time beekeeper, Walt Wright, who talked about those very issues.

Last night we went back to the hive prepared to inspect both the upper brood chamber and the bottom hive body to find evidence that the queen is still laying and is in good shape. This time, I wrote down what we found in each frame. This will not only help me remember this visit, but give me something with which to compare future inspections.

The outer frame on the right is still completely empty, without even any comb drawn on it. When we went into the hive body below, we found that they hadn’t drawn comb on the frame below either. Guess they don’t think they need it.

A view of the brood chamber from above

Back to the brood chamber.

At least five frames have exposed larvae and capped brood on both sides of the frame along with honey around the edge of the frame. Towards the left side of the box, there were also a couple of frames with a good bit of pollen stored. One side of one center frame from entirely capped honey. Much of the larvae we saw in our last visit has been capped now and there is new larvae growing in cells that only had jelly in them a few days ago. This were all encouraging signs that the queen is still laying and healthy. Also, the queen cups were still empty and there were still only two. If the bees were preparing to swarm or replace the queen, there would be more.

Lifting off the top brood chamber wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be. With both of us lifting, it was very manageable.

We only had to look at a few frames before we found the queen. I’m always afraid that I’ve squished her when I put the frame back. So, I pulled the frame out a second time, just to make sure, but her attendants  had already moved her to another frame.

We put the upper brood chamber back on and added the first honey super on top of that, so now there are three boxes of frames. I am truly amazed at how quickly the hive has grown from no comb drawn at all to 17 frames full of honey, pollen, and a continuous cycle of larvae and brood.

I decided not to put the queen excluder between the brood chamber and honey super. During my research over the past couple of days, many beekeepers have found that, although they can squeeze through, the bees don’t like to go through it and tend to ignore the box, which defeats the purpose.

I won’t do another inspection for a couple of weeks. It will take time for the bees to begin drawing on the new frames in the honey super. Since everything seems to be going well and the queen is still laying, I don’t need to intrude on their work.

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