Fall Bee Update, With Queen Pics!

Well, all those weeks ago the bees seemed to have come through the weird mini-swarm incident. The bees that clustered on the leg of the hive were all dead in a pile come morning (too cold?), but a few days later I checked inside the hive and things looked just like they did before the mini-swarm thing. On one of the few frames I pulled out to look more closely I happened to see the queen again, so that’s something. Mysterious bees! I have taken a more hands off approach since then, partially because I was worried I was stressing them too much and partially because that concern was just enough excuse to let the rest of life take priority.

Yesterday I wanted to take a quick peek to see how things were looking. I kept it short and sweet because the girls were feisty! I had this idea that I didn’t want them to unnecessarily gorge on honey, given the limited supply, so I didn’t use smoke. When I was smooth with my movements it was mostly okay, but any little bumps or jerks immediately resulted in that revving engine sound of pissed off bees and a few more angry ladies taking to the air in an attempt to sacrifice themselves to protect the hive.

The top medium super of the near hive.

The top medium brood box of the near hive.

The near hive had far fewer bees than before, but the top medium box was very heavy with honey and there was a small amount of brood in both the top and bottom boxes. I’m still fairly sure they don’t have enough honey stores to last the winter, so I will keep an eye on needing to feed them.

The colony in the far hive, however, was much smaller.

The top medium box of the far hive.

The top medium brood box of the far hive. Sad!

There were few bees in the top box but a fair amount of honey stored. The lower box had a small amount of brood and more bees, but not a lot. It seems that the amount of honey stored relative to the population might actually put them in better stead than the near hive in terms of basic sustenance, but I’m not sure about the chances of a colony this small.

The bottom box of the far hive.

The bottom medium brood box of the far hive.

You can see how the bees are clustering around the frames in the center of the box. This is where there is a bit of brood, so the bees are clustered here to try to keep this area at the constant 91-97 degrees needed to raise baby bees.

And now, something that I wasn’t at all hopeful about getting, pics of the queen! Given what I was just saying about being quick so as not to stress the hives too much, I have some guilt about taking the extra time to snap these pics but I just couldn’t resist. Ah the trials of being kept by a new beekeeper. Poor bees. Thing is, nobody else here at the homestead has ever seen either of the queens and I really wanted to share. So, here she is!

Queen Bee!

Queen Bee!

Can you spot her? Look right in the middle. She’s is the largest bee in this picture (and in the hive). She has a dark, hairless spot on her thorax, a pinched waist and a much longer abdomen compared to the worker bees. Sometimes I’ve found her in the classic pose, with a circle of doting caretakers surrounding her, but often she’s trying to scurry away from the light and the worker bees are more of a jumble around her.

A frame from the far hive.

A frame from the far hive.

Can you see her now? Close to the top, on the middle of the visible section of comb. This is an example of how the girls have drawn their comb using just a starter strip of wax foundation along the top of the frame. This frame is flipped upside-over (as O would say), so the main attachment is along the bottom of the picture. This is a maneuver I can do in cooler weather with a light weight comb, but would be risky in warm weather with a heavier comb- the whole comb might flop right out. Lots of times the girls bring the comb all the way down and anchor it to the bottom of the frame, making it sturdier, but not in this case.

I’ve heard of estimating the weight of a hive by how many fingers it takes to lift the hive, so I gave it a go in order to have some reference point for future hive checks. The near hive is at two fingers needed to lift, the far hive at just one puny finger needed! This seems bad. We shall see.

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5 thoughts on “Fall Bee Update, With Queen Pics!

  1. Janice

    I LOVE seeing the bees and hearing how they are thriving!
    I too am going to head to Idaho and check it out as a place to relocate.
    Thank u soooo. Much for the update and the incredible pics of the bees and their queen!!! Janice

    Reply
  2. Kimberly Chisholm

    Okay that one picture really is SO SAD!

    And the queen totally grosses me out.

    I’m having an urge to just go right back to my yogurt and applesauce and breast-milk-soap making, but I have to say that this post has me totally intrigued. Bees EAT honey? Their own vomit?? And do they make the waxy honeycomb stuff themselves? And I thought all the lowly drone guy were actual GUYS not ladies! I thought the queen was the only lady.

    No need to answer these. It should be enough to know that you have a super-allergic bee nemesis thinking along these lines.

    Reply
    1. fullheartsfarm Post author

      I’m kind of with you on the queen. Regular worker bees are nice looking creatures, the queen… not so much. And of course I want to answer your questions!!! Ready or not: Bees make honey just to have stored food around. They essentially process the nectar from flowers so that it will keep and be edible when food sources aren’t around. The honey people take should just be the extra. Bee’s also eat pollen as a protein source. The wax for the honeycomb comes right out of their little bee buns. For a picture of wax scales being exuded, check out http://www.honeybeesuite.com/and-now-normal-wax-scales/. The lowly drone guys are guys, but none should be left in the hive this time of the year. Their only job is to mate with queens, otherwise they loaf about the hive begging food from the girl bees. They have huge eyes (to see the queens in flight) and no stingers (don’t need ’em). The great majority of bees are female worker bees.

      Reply
  3. susie

    This is so interesting! I had no idea that the honeycomb came out of their little buns and that the only job of the drones was to mate with the queen. The majority of bees are female workers? New info… I have forgotten alot of what I knew. Thank you for the info and pictures!!!
    Susie

    Reply

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