As new beekeepers, we’ve had our bees a month now and it has been exciting. What I find interesting is that everyone I talk to about my bees is also very excited and love to see the photos. It’s simply fun talking to my friends about the bees.
This month has also been a little worrying because the weather has been so rainy and drizzly and grey, I find myself relaxing a little when it’s bright and breezy because I feel that the bees are going to be happier and able to go out to forage for nectar and pollen.
We went into the hives at the one week mark, then a week later to check on how they were doing. If you remember, we fed them sugar syrup at the beginning to help them in their settling down period. Then we decided to leave them alone for 2 weeks – it was a long two weeks.
New Beekeepers: Go By What’s Happening Instead of the Calendar
There is obviously a yearly calendar of things to do & things to observe when beekeeping – Spring jobs, Fall tasks etc etc. What is important to realize is that this yearly calendar is only a guide. Weather and environmental conditions are going to dictate what’s going on in the hive.
Our two week wait was up & we had plenty of time over the weekend to do a hive inspection. The problem was the weather. It was wet and very unsettled & not a good time to open up a hive. The bees would not have been happy with us!! We had to wait another couple of days to do our hive inspection. Stressed me out a little but the bees are my priority, not me!
Italians vs Texans Bees
The experts, books etc all say that new beekeepers should have two hives so that you can compare & contrast. You know what, they are so right. Our two hives are different in a number of ways. The Italians are in a Langstroth hive & they are definitely calm & laid back bees. The Texans are in the horizontal top bar hive. These bees are feistier compared with the Italians and more sensitive to visiting friends wearing darker colors. They don’t like people wearing black/brown clothing.
The Texans seem to be having an easier time settling in to their hive compared with the Italians. It might just be our impression but we both agree that they seem to be more robust. We took lots of photos and will discuss them at our next Comal County Bee Association (CCBA) meeting in a couple of weeks time.
One Month Hive Inspection
One thing that made me feel happier was that in both hives we saw lots of uncapped nectar and pollen – important food stores for the bees. We couldn’t see the Queens in either hive but lots of fresh larvae which shows that she’s doing her job!
One thing we need to be more practiced at is inspecting the frames at the same time as taking photos. We’re finding it difficult to do both, especially when we’ve got bees buzzing around us at the same time. It’s probably more important to have a good look at each frame than taking photos but then I’d have nothing to show for you!! This is something that time and practice/repetition will solve especially as we get more relaxed going into the hives.
What we didn’t see much evidence of was significant comb building in either hive. We don’t know if this is weather related or just the fact that the hives are only a month old. We’ll have another look before our next CCBA meeting and then discuss with the more experienced beekeepers.
Interesting things to see!
Two things Stuart & I found really interesting to see as new beekeepers…
The first was the array of pollen colors! Looks like they’ve naturally sorted the different pollens out – dark orange in this cell, yellow over there etc etc! We’ve see been come back to the hives with different colored pollen on their legs but didn’t expect to see the same variation in the cells.
The second thing was the “pools” of nectar in the comb on the way to being turned into honey. The workers basically spit up the nectar they’ve collected into open cells and then fan it to dehydrate the nectar into honey. Just an amazing process
Plan & Prepare for Hive Inspections
Every time we’ve been into our hives we learn something new. Right from the beginning we knew that it’s really important to 1) have a good reason to open the hives and 2) to be prepared and ready to do what you want to do. It’s still a little stressful for us to do a hive inspection because we are still so new at all of this. We forget things, we drop things but we hope to get much better with time. Hey! We’re new beekeepers!
This time we forgot to take down some empty frames to replace the empty feeder in the Langstroth hive. Rather than leave a big empty space we’ve left the feeder in place (see photo above) and made a note in our log to take empty frames with us next time. The Italians still have plenty of space in the hive & we don’t expect them to “bust out” in the next 2 weeks!
We’ve also learned to get our smoker going a little earlier that we did the first couple of times. All practice and experience. To date we’ve just had two stings – one each – from the Texans. Remember I said they were definitely feistier! Neither of us would say the our Texan bees are mean but certainly not as laid back as the Italians!!
Natural Honey Comb
Here’s some comb from the Texan hive. They had already started building this comb when we got the bees. The comb was in a Langstroth frame that Stuart screwed into an adaptor for the horizontal hive. This effectively turned this beautiful new comb through 90º. We were a little worried doing this but the comb was small and we didn’t think would fall off the frame. We were proved right, but could have been wrong.
One month on, the girls have joined the two separate pieces of comb into one with a little bridge. Both pieces are a little bigger but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much else going on in this frame right now but it’s still rather lovely. Stuart & I don’t know if we should take this comb out of the frame or cut it out and tie it into the top of the frame. So much to learn – think there’s a lifetime’s work ahead for us!
My son, Tom is home for a few days with a friend. I was reminded that Emmett’s dad, Bill, got his first bees at about the same time as us. Their hives are near Lockhart & so they’ll have a different experience because of the different local environment. I’ll have to see what words of wisdom Bill has from his first month as a new Beekeeper.