This past Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending my very first hive opening with our local beekeeping association. Last Winter, I took their beekeeping course and today, I was getting a close up look at two new bee hives started from packages 4 weeks ago. Hive openings are best when the weather is around 60 degrees, sunny and in the afternoon when most of the bees are out scavenging the area for pollen sources. Opening the hive is critical, especially after transferring your bees. This should be done weekly until they have filled out two deep supers (for Winter survival on Cape Cod) and you have added your first shallow super (honey collector).
When opening the hive, you want to inspect the frames in the supers for a few things:
To see if the queen is alive
To see if they bees are building out frames (adding comb(wax) and filling it with honey, pollen and brood)
To see if there is brood (babies)
To see if the hive is “growing” at a normal rate
To look for evidence of predators, such as mites or beetles (on the bottom board)
To check the feeders of your bees. Bees are often fed during the Spring and Fall seasons on Cape Cod with a sugar syrup.
The hive can be calmed by the use of the smoker, but our association is now opting toward spraying them with Honeybee Healthy prior to smoking them. The association has found this to be less disruptive and the bees tend to recover faster from cleaning themselves of the Honeybee Healthy verses recovering from gorging themselves with honey induced by the smoker.
Here are some photos from today as myself and other “newbees” looked on
First the outer cover, inner cover and the feeder (that hides in an empty second deep) are removed and set aside. These are placed in front of the hive as a reminder to not walk directly in front of the hive.
These hives sit on carpet remnants that are flipped upside down. As the three hives are located in a grassy pasture at this Audubon Sanctuary, the carpet remant keeps the tall grasses from growing up and blocking the entrance to the hives.
The entrance to the hives were still being used, as we opened the hives. Here you can see the same 1/2 inch hardware cloth that we use in keeping chickens tucked into the hive opening. This prevents field mice from entering the hive and setting up a warm cozy home.
The entire openings took about an hour. We opened two hives. The third, had overwintered and is struggling this Spring. We left that one alone. We inspected all the frames and verified that the queen was indeed laying eggs, honey was present, pollen was stored and the colony was growing. On one of the colonies, we even added the second deep with frames.
The inspection always goes easier with the assistance of the hive tool.
First an outer frame was pulled as we made our way to each frame in the hive. As expected there was not much activity yet. The bees were still building out from the hive center.
When we pulled out a frame from the middle of the deep. It was covered in bees, honey, pollen and brood.
Soon enough, it was time to leave. We refilled the sugar feeder and dusted the top deep with about 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar to help control for Varroa mites (We found 1 one the IPM board.) We also set traps for small hive beetles with canola oil. We reassembled the hives and in no time, the bees went back to business as usual, returning to the hive, loaded down with pollen.