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  • Kathryn Allard

Bee Adventures - Part 3 1/2

July 1, 2020

The past 5 days have been unusually hot. Seems the Farmer's Almanac predictions for 2020 were right on track, so far. But the heat, humidity, clouds and rain have delayed my hive inspection... Two weeks have gone by already, and if you want to keep track of what's going on inside your hive, regular inspections are necessary, along with documenting, keeping a log and, hey, why not: a blog! You always hope the weather will be sunny and hot in time for your inspection, because the bees are out foraging, happy and busy, instead of pissed off because they can’t leave the hive. 

Had a break between clouds later in the afternnon, and I decided to open the hive while the sun was out a little. It’s hot - like 29 degrees hot - and humid. I can tell you the beekeeper suit and veil do a great job for protecting against angry bees, but it gets really steamy in there. There must be a keeper who is inventing a cooling system somewhere on the planet.

My observations this time: One dead bee at the hive entrance. Probably a bee being discarded from the hive by others. If bees are sick, die, born crippled or are deficient in any way, out the hive they go.

Four of the original frames are almost full. A good sign I have a healthy laying queen filling the frames with eggs. Woo Hoo!

One new black tray is half full of comb on one side. Four large strips built vertically, and small areas where there’s nothing in between. 

The bees chew and chew, mixing enzymes from their saliva and softening the wax flakes from their body until it is formable like clay. The bees then add the wax to the comb, continuing the hexagonal shape. When using a Langstroth hive, the bees take the hint from the frame inserts which are already molded in the hexagonal shape. They continue to form the cells from this pre-existing form. And usually, you have perfectly framed honey cells.

The other frames are empty. Which means they are building with a purpose. If they were irratic in their development, by building comb on a frame and then start another frame, I would be worried. Instead, their construction is evenly spreading from the inside to the outside frames, as they “should”.

The feeder is empty. They are either not finding enough nectar outside and/or building the hive with the help of the feeder content in crappy weather.

The varroa tray has debris and signs of humidity. I am guessing not enough bees to keep the hive withing an "acceptable" humudity percentage. Not surprising though, considering the high humidity lately...

The inside cover, where the screen is, shows signs of humidity as well.

Bees have evolved adaptations to deal with the environmental fluctuations, including humidity.  In addition to ambient humidity, bees create moisture via living processes such as bringing in water, moist nectar and even respiration. While it is important to keep the brood above a certain humidity level it is important that wet air does not condense on the inner hive walls or even the comb itself. So how is the balance in the hive maintained?
In temperate climates during the summer, humidity in the hive does not appear to be an issue due to the fact that the outside air is warmer and dryer hence the passive circulation of air is more effective and helped by larger entrances and mesh floors. In addition, bees’ behavioural adaptations such as fanning and bearding present an active way of regulating humidity.

I asked Richard for a level, and sure enough, the hive was a little over an inch and a quarter towards the back. I placed wooden blocks under the back legs to level the hive. I will add another quarter inch later, so it’s tilted a little towards the front. If it rains from the East, no rain will get inside.

The ventilated top was difficult to remove because burr comb (extra wax comb bees build on top of the frames or anywhere else they find available space) was sticking to the top of some frames. I'll have to research what this means...

I filled the feeder with four cups of syrup. I see the bees fly off the dock, but they don’t go very far. Are they doing a distance assessment?

The debris on the varroa (bee mites) tray is only cappings, bee parts are other things they've tossed below. No varroas in sight - for now. Eventually they will come though, it's a "natural" cycle. Little bee blood suckers that nest on bee's backs and suck them dry. Like ticks on deer, moose and foxes... 

I am still at the discovery stage and forget to look for eggs, or try to locate the queen (she is bigger, longer, and has a black abdomen, instead of golden). Some beekeepers have never seen their queen, so I’m not worried too much yet. 

July 8 2020

I see bees swaying on the dock. Looks like the are rocking back and forth. Some people say they are cleaning the surface. The more porous the surface of their landing dock is, the more often they do it, and it removes any debris from their entrance. Their back legs don’t move at all; only their front ones move their body back and forth.

We see more bees at the entrance, which is a good thing. My hive population is growing!

Man, it’s so hot out...

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