I’ll say this about this behemoth hive: inspections are intense. I did a full inspection on April 2 and learned trying to do both in one day stirred them up too much. And the two halves have developed a Jekyll and Hyde character. Both halves have queens I raised last year. One side is docile and sweet. The other side is not. In fact, they were so agitated and defensive at the beginning of April, they followed me all the way back to the house and flew around looking for targets of their ire for a good 30 minutes. Unfortunately, some contractors who’ve been working on a project for us showed up unannounced just as I was finishing. I had to put veils on them so they could work.
After that April 2 inspection, I decided not to try to do them both in the same day again. And I’ve made some changes in my approach.
The first inspection modification I’ve made is to cut a piece of board to fit the exposed half of the hive I’m not planning to inspect. That keeps them cozy and not as aware of my work with their neighbor. As soon as I remove the queen excluder, I slip the board into place.
The second modification is to remove the brood chamber and set it on a bottom board and immediately place an inner cover with a bee escape over the deep hive body. Again, that keeps the bees in the other box less aware of my presence and prevents the queen from moving from box to box. I had been unable to find her in the last two checks because there are so many bees and she’s been on the run from the smoke.
This time I saw my queen. This was a relief because it seemed like the demeanor of the hive had changed so much, I thought I might have had a usurpation swarm of Africanized bees invade before I had set up this double-queen system.
You might wonder how I would come to suspect such a thing. It’s because in early March I did catch a usurpation swarm preparing to invade another hive (the other half of this set up, as it so happens). It was shortly before a severe storm (tornado included) moved into the area and I was doing a quick visual inspection of all my hives. On the back of one hive, hanging from the cover, was a small clump of bees about the size of my fist. I poked around in them and there was a queen. I killed her and knocked all the bees off. I believe this phenomenon is more common in Central Texas than many beekeepers know. I recently heard from a fellow beekeeper that the pickup location for the local association’s packages is impossible to approach without a suit because one of the apiary’s hives has been taken over by Africanized bees.
The good news for me though is, while this half of the hive may be testy and defensive, at least they’re still mine and requeening isn’t as urgent.
Another issue that’s come up is the fit. The queen excluder is about 1/8 wider at both edges than the Flow Hive super above it, which means the migratory covers on the brood boxes won’t fit snugly against the super and leaves a channel for water to collect in when it rains. My solution, for now, is to put a piece of weather stripping along the edges of the migratory covers. Not a perfect solution, but it’s working for now.