If you recall, we spent much of the end of August and start of September treating our hives with Formic Pro. Sadly, halfway through this treatment, we were dismayed to learn from a company rep who spoke at the End of Summer Classic that doing the one-strip treatment doesn’t affect the mites in the capped brood.
Since killing the mites under the the caps is one of the reasons we use Formic Pro, this was quite a letdown, and we’ll be re-thinking our treatment in the future — possibly trying the two-strip method again. (We switched to one strip after having lost multiple queens when we did the two-strip in the past. Apparently, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.)
But this week, we were finally able to have a look inside our hives.
It was a coolish morning, so we waited until early evening (the warmest part of that day) and started with the original OH, Honey hive. This is the colony that made it through last winter, the one from which the other two hives were split, and the only one we got honey off this year.
Because fall is setting in, we are trying to take all the hives down to fewer boxes and decided to begin by removing the second honey super.
We took it off, brushing the few bees that were on the frames back into the hive and set the box on the deck, planning to go back to it later. For some reason, neither of us completely thought through the consequences of this action, but if you’re a beekeeper, you’re probably cringing because you can predict what happened.
Everyone else will have to read the rest of the post to find out.
We finished reviewing all the frames of that hive, cleaned out all four of the beetle traps, and sprinkled DFM on the top of the frames.
It’s a strong hive with plenty of bees, and if it doesn’t have as much honey as we’d like to see … well, there’s time yet before it gets really cold. In addition, it still has a lot of brood. At this time of year, that causes the niggling concern of it possibly also having a large Varroa load, as well as the worry of going into the winter with more bees than the hive has food for.
Still, we plan to start feeding this weekend and treat one more time with Oxalic Acid in October or November (when the queen has stopped or greatly reduced her laying). Fingers crossed these actions will address those issues.
On to Split #1. This is also a strong hive, as you can see from the pictures below.
Here’s a view from the side.
We spotted our beautiful golden girl (the queen).
I’m not going to point her out. By now, you should be able to recognize her. 🙂
This hive was in a similar state — lots of bees, brood, and not as much honey as we’d like to see.
But they’re still bringing in nectar and a surprising amount of pollen, and as mentioned before, we’re going to start feeding them.
We were finishing up with the beetle traps and DFM when we began to realize there were a lot(!) of bees in the air around the hives, and they were starting to ping our veils.
There was also a some air combat between bees and other bees, and bees and Yellow Jackets.
Realizing what was happening, we immediately closed up the hive, and started to put away the gear.
It was then we noticed the box we’d put on the deck.
It seems the bees had noticed it too because it was surrounded by a cloud of buzzing insects.
We had broken a cardinal rule in beekeeping: Don’t leave honey or nectar sitting around because it will result in a robbing situation!
I didn’t take pictures because, well, even if you’re a beekeeper, tens of thousands of bees flying all around you can be a little distracting.
How could we have been so stupid?
And not only had we left the box out, there was also a bag of dirty, dark, old comb sitting in our deck box. With the deck box lid open.
We’d cleaned some frames the day before, and The Engineer was going to burn the mess that came off them after we finished our hive check. He’d put the bag in the box to protect it from the bees, but forgot to close the box.
Did I mention the foundation we’d cleaned and pressure-washed was draining on a bench on the front porch?
Well, yes, dear readers, it was. There were interested bees around it too.
Not only had we put out a super full of nectar to tempt neighborhood bees (including our own), we’d also offered several side dishes.
It was, as we say in the aviation world, a Charlie Foxtrot.
There were bees everywhere, fighting each other to take that delicious nectar back to their hives.
What did we do? What could we do, but start brushing the bees off the main attraction, and tucking those frames one by one in a closed box. Of course, a few bees ended up in the box, but we dealt with that later.
Then, we moved the bag of old comb to the front of the house and covered it with a bucket, covered the clean(ish) frames with a towel, put away all our tools, went inside, and let the crowds disperse.
Clearly, our plans for grilling out were off the table. Dining out was now on the agenda because, frankly, the idea of trying to cook was not enticing after such a tense experience.
Amazingly, neither of us got stung, and the three bees that followed us into the house were caught and released to go home.
Within an hour, life was pretty much back to normal … except all through the next day, foragers were checking out our deck, hoping for another smorgasbord.
It was our own fault. Bees are preparing for winter now, and although they are still out foraging, the pickings are much slimmer than earlier in the year. Beekeepers have to be extra careful not to offer any enticements to would-be robbers.
We are normally very careful about this — covering the comb and propolis we remove from the frames, placing it in a container and not just dumping it on the ground, cleaning up any honey, sugar water, or nectar spills.
But this time, we messed up.
Unsurprisingly, it was with some trepidation that we approached our third hive when we checked it today.
We went through the super, brushing the bees off each frame, and tucking those frames into a closed box.
Then, we removed the top box, covered it with a towel, and began to look at each frame of the bottom box. We were glad to see they’d begun to cap some honey — more than either of the other hives — and there was less capped brood. This probably indicates the queen’s laying is slowing, and the bees are turning their attention toward winter provisions.
By the time we got to the top box, our girls were beginning to dive bomb our veils. They were obviously done with our ministrations.
We took a quick peek at a single frame upstairs, cleaned the beetle traps, sprinkled the DFM and got the heck out.
You see, we learn from our mistakes. If you’re a beekeeper, hopefully you can too, instead of having to make them yourself.