It’s been a while since we posted about our bees, so we thought it would be fun to show you how busy they’ve been.
First, the apiary has nicely come together. BCW Creations out of Waukesha, created a sign for our new amateur honey venture and we are proudly displaying it between our two hive boxes. One of our kids came up with the name Wollenbees and it stuck with us as a fun label should we ever end up selling some of our honey.
We Lost our East Queen
In early summer, we noticed our eastern hive didn’t have a lot of in and out activity. Upon opening up the hive for our weekly inspection, we could see the screens were absent of new bee brood. This spelled trouble for the hive, because without a queen, the hive would move on.
Our bee mentor had the idea to take one of the active bee brood screens from the western hive and swap it out with one from the east. The result was the hive created their own queen. A worker bee destined to collect pollen all of her life, now had the title of royalty. Crazy how nature works.
Since then, the new East Queen began laying eggs and the hive, while a bit behind its neighboring west hive, began business as usual.
Below, you will see what we see when we inspect our bee hives. This process is done weekly and involves suiting up into our beekeeper uniforms, and checking the health of the hives and bees.
We look for activity – both egg laying and honey production, and always try to look for the Queen.
We also perform maintenance on the hives by scraping unwanted burr comb off of the screens, and by providing more supers (bee boxes) if the current hive is running out of room to make honey.
Egg Laying and Maintenance
Pictured below is activity inside the hive. With each screen we inspect, we notice something different.
Here the gold colored cells is bee brood or bee babies. This is a good sign and means the Queen is actively laying eggs within the last five days. Worker bees have a 21 day cycle which includes three days being an egg, 6 days as larva, and 12 days as pupa or capped brood.
The burr comb in the last two pictures will be scraped off by us with our bee tool. Typically, comb that hangs from the bottom of a screen contains drone brood. A hive doesn’t need a lot of drones, so removing the comb before the bees hatch is recommended.
The last picture shows bee larva that was exposed when we scraped the burr comb.
The female worker bees are the only ones responsible for gathering pollen and nectar which is made into honey by the bees. Nectar and honey will be found in the “super” or upper boxes.
Through an enzyme process, the bees reduce the water content of the nectar turning it into honey. The bees then cap the cells with wax for later use.
Here you see capped honey inside the cells. The screens are very heavy when lifted out of the boxes as one hive can produce over 50 pounds of honey in one season. If we weren’t wearing gloves, we could pierce the comb and be able to taste the honey.
In the coming months, we plan to share with you the process of extracting honey as it will be new to us!