Watching Bees at Work
By Engrid Winslow
This is the time of year when sources of honey and pollen are abundant and you can see the bees busily working in your flowerbeds.
It’s fun just to stand to the side and watch a beehive at this time of year as the bees fly in with full pollen bags and others leave to forage. The bees are not very defensive at this time of year but after the solstice, they start being more protective of honey stores. It’s an easy time for the colony and the beekeeper to enjoy the break from worrying about the colony having enough to eat. Inspections still must continue for the honeybee health, to be sure that everything is going well with the colony.
The first thing the beekeeper checks for when opening to the colony is the presence of eggs, larvae, newly born bees (these are called nurse bees and their first task is to foster newly hatching bees), stores of pollen and honey and room for the Queen to lay more eggs. If there is no room there are several options, including splitting the hive and leaving the Queen in one hive while allowing the new colony to raise another queen or installing a new queen. Another option is to shift frames around a bit so that there are some empty frames closer to the brood nest. The beekeeper also checks the “pattern”, or density of the capped brood. A good queen will lay in a dense pattern with very few empty cells. “Spotty brood” could indicate a problem varying from a young queen trying to get the hang of brood laying to an older queen in decline.
Another important task is to try and locate the queen. This can be tricky in large colonies of two deep boxes because the queen likes to run away and hide from the light into a deeper part of the colony. She can also be difficult to locate on a frame filled with hundreds of worker bees and drones. Here is a photo