Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still Twitchy, Maybe More So

This hive of bees, AKA The Twitchy Bees, have always been very active. Late last November I put a second super on the hive. When I had glanced at it in December there was only minimal activity in that hive box. In January they were making a little new comb on a single frame in the middle but no where else. Even during the rains the bees would be active collecting pollen and nectar during any breaks in the weather.
A week ago I was by the hive and just lifted the top for a quick glance and the frames were covered with bees. The following Sunday I took another quick look and confirmed the activity and picking up a stinger for me efforts. These were called the Twitchy Bees for a reason and I did not have the bee suit on. My bad, my itching but I needed a better check of the hive. The Backwards Beekeepers Bee Rescue Hot Line (213) 373-1104 has been receiving daily calls and I needed to know if my girls were in a swarm mood or mode. Maurice of BB offered to come by and give me a hand and pick up some experience.

I had wanted to inspect earlier but my schedule and weather had caused things to be delayed for a week. When we finally got a good weather day without a lot of wind the bees were active as usual coming in and out of the hive in big numbers it was time for the inspection.

We smoked the bees and removed the hive cover. It was crawling with lots of bees. They were relatively calm at this point. I missed getting photos early on but all the frames in the top super had comb, lots of comb. Counting from the side near me and away from the wall, I tried to remove frame #2 and then #1. I could not get them out. The bees had drawn comb across the gaps connecting the frames and I could not remove the frames without destroying the comb. When I was trying to pry the frames apart was when the bees started to get annoyed. Smoking then only helped some, they were upset but we moved ahead..

I reached across the hive and was able to remove #9 and then #10. I put #9 into another super I had on hand, replacing it with an empty frame.

All of the frames I checked had brood and drone cells with honey on the ends.

This one had some obvious larvae in the cells along with the drone cells (those sticking out like bullet ends).

By now the bees were still acting out. I did not see any swam or queen cells but it was clear that the queen is working very hard and the hive seems to be thriving. I did not see any point in disturbing them any further. I had the information I came looking for and I was ready to act.
Before shutting the hive I added a third super on top, the one with the frame of brood. I am hoping the bees were annoyed because they were running out of room. The added box may help them to calm down. If they stay aggressive I will have to consider smushing the queen and let them make a new calmer one. I would rather not do that since they are a very hard working hive.

When we moved away from the hive both of us had 3-4 bees following us and letting us know we were not welcome.

Check the pair near the top of Maurice's hat. This was not a full on attack by the hive but just a couple annoying guard bees each of us attracted. Apparently a couple even stung a neighbor who was 60 ft away around a corner working on his garden. The bees did not move away until we moved from the garage and into the laundry room and I smoked them. 15-20 minutes later Maurice went out to gather some of the gear he had brought along and he had to retreat. The guard bees were still out there. In time I suited up and got his equipment and there were still one guard buzzing me all the way to the corner of the house, 70 yds away before it left.
One thing is certain, the Twitchy Bees are not demonstration bees. If they had been in the Farmlab hive a the last meeting, the number of spectators would have dropped a lot.
I will double check the new super in a week, if the bees are still as aggressive even with the added space I will have to call out the the expert Kirkobeeo and address the issue. One thing I do not need is bees attacking the neighbors or me when I am doing normal stuff near the hive.
There is one certainty, there will be honey in The Dale at some point this year.

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