We opened the hive today for the last check of fall. I wanted to make sure they had plenty of honey and that the queen was still laying eggs. It started out fine – there were a few bees roaming around above the inner cover and on top of the upper honey super. The frames in the upper super are full of honey and I already knew the lower super was full, so plenty for the winter.
Then it started getting messy. Between the frames of the upper and lower honey supers, the bees had constructed lots of comb and stored more honey there. So, when we pried off the top super, that comb broke open and started spilling honey. I scraped up as much as possible and kept going.
I put in a queen excluder in August because there was capped brood in the first super. Then in late August, I noticed comb on the excluder. Had I known what would happen, I would have (and should have) taken out the excluder then. Instead, today I found a huge mess I would never have imagined. None of of the websites I found mentioned this, nor any of the books I’ve read: the bees build comb THROUGH the excluder, connecting the bottom super to the excluder and the excluder to the brood chamber.
When I pried off the excluder, it broke open the comb between the brood chamber and the excluder, spilling honey everywhere and opening brood cells on top of the frames.
While I was cleaning up as best I could, the bees in the supers had started crawling out, so they were all over the ground and on the outside of the hive and no amount of smoke would get them to go back in so we could reassemble the hive without lots of squished bees.
Within a short time, the entire front of the hive was completely coated with bees. I thought when the sun went down, they would make their way in, but it was the same in the morning. I suited back up to see what was happening as soon as it was light enough to see. Bees were festooning outside, making strings of bees connected by wax they’d normally use to make comb. And there was a good bit of fighting – I had attracted wild bees with my mess. I put the entrance reducer in so my bees could better defend the hive and by afternoon, there was no evidence of fighting, although there are lots of dead bees on the ground. The foragers are back to work and bringing in lots of pollen. Hopefully, they’ll be their happy little selves again soon and we can put this behind us.
On the plus side, I saved all the honey-filled comb I scraped out, set it over a strainer overnight, and collected a nice jar of honey.