At 10:30am it was 72 degrees and I went out to inspect either 1 or 2 hives, however many I could get through before I got too tired.
Note to self: you always underestimate just how very hot it can get inside that suit. Next time, start the inspection at 8:30am. I once again was faced with not being able to see the hive because I had pools of sweat in my glasses; dripping fat drops of sweat down into the hive, which the girls clearly do not like.
I wanted to be ready for anything and not have to make multiple trips, so I took out two boxes with 8 frames, a combination of bare frames and drawn empty frames; 2 sorting boxes; and I trimmed a couple branches from the quaking aspen tree that was hanging over the path to get to the beehives because it kept slapping me in the face every time I walked by.
I cut up 4 good pieces of burlap for the smoker, and started her up. Kinda. Sorta. The fire starter was on it’s last gasp and could barely get out a little puff of flame. So I ended up after all having to go inside the house and get out another fire starter and then back out to the beeyard. Best laid plans yadda yadda yadda.
Frame in the orange hive with both capped brood, uncapped brood and nectar off to the left
This hive started with 3 boxes and ended with four boxes. The bees have apparently finally figured out how to forage because they were bringing in good food. They were running out of room between the brood and food, so I added a box to this hive for expansion.
I found Queen Frodig. Here’s a video of Queen Frodig with her big white dot. She’s a great looking Carniolan queen, with a very dark brown body.
There were fresh eggs. 12 very full frames of brood, most capped, some uncapped in all stages. there were 6 full frames of nectar and 1 fat frame of pollen. There were 10 frames of bees.
Here you can see big fat white larvae, smaller C larvae, teeny weeny c larvae and a few fresh eggs laid today
I managed the brood down to the bottom two boxes and checker boarded in 5 bare frames so there was room for expansion.
The 3rd box is 8 empty or bare frames and the top box was 6 frames of food and 2 bare frames.
So Frodig’s girls finally pulled it off and are foraging and Frodig is laying up very healthily.
This hive started with 3 boxes and the FlowHive box and ended up with 4 boxes and the FlowHive box. This is the hive out of winter with Queen Freyja, that I split. I could literally have split them again today and done no harm to this hive.
This is in the orange hive, and is a good frame with nectar on top and pollen on the bottom. If you look careful on the middle left and top right you can see two bees with their “tongues” that are deep reddish brown stuck into the cells delivery nectar
They are completely jammed and the Queen was basically plugged out (meaning there was virtually no where else for her to lay. They had all sorts of open/empty queen cups and some open/empty queen cells, most started along the bottom third of the frames. Uh oh. So I’m thinking they’d like to swarm because they feel cramped.
The problem is that they refused to touch the FlowHive frames for weeks. So instead they literally packed an entire box just stuffed full of nectar which is now nearly all capped off honey. That gave them only 2 western boxes to expand babies into. They only started finally putting nectar in the FlowHive once they literally had no cell left in the bottom hive to put nectar into.
here’s a frame in the yellow hive that is wall to wall capped brood, some drone brood and 2 queen cups along the bottom
I did not see Queen Freyja. I did see plenty of fresh eggs. There were 12 frames wall to wall brood, 16 frames of bees, 6 frames of honey and 3 frames of pollen.
I put on another box of bare frames, moved the brood down and checkerboarded the 8 bare frames in among the bottom two boxes for expansion.
FlowHive issues discovered
So I pulled each of the 6 frames of the FlowHive. Here are some observations. Each time I inspect this FH box, I have to meddle with the expansion/contraction screws on the ends of the frames because they slightly warp and expand in the sun. So I have to take the screwdriver and turn the screw heads on the end of each frame to get it to fit more loosely in the box. They are so tight, I have to kind of cram and force them out of the box. So I’m tamping down the screws.
The bees have literally packed all 6 frames out to the brims with nectar and all the frames were just starting to get wax capped along the top. This makes for some really….really heavy frames.
This is one of the flowhive frames. It is full of nectar and just starting to get capped along the top
Because there is a queen excluder, when you remove the FH box, you have to make sure that the queen excluder isn’t stuck to the bottom of the FH box, but instead stays on the top of the hive. Because Queens like to move up (or chimney) in the hive, you will very often find them clinging to the bottom side of the queen excluder. If you moved the box with the queen excluder stuck to the bottom of the box, you would be moving the queen, unprotected, and she or the whole excluder could fall off the hive. Bye bye queen. So you have to carefully unstick the excluder all the way around the perimeter and carefully lift the box. Then carefully pick up the excluder and check all over to see if the queen is on the bottom before setting it aside.
Of course, since the FH box is on the top of the hive (has to be because of the queen excluder), you have to move the FH box off the hive before you can inspect the hive.
The FH box is very. Very. Very. Heavy. My estimation was about 85 pounds. It nearly did me in. The FH box is already heavy to start because the frames are such thick plastic. Then add the fact they are totally stuffed with nectar, and are deep frames and are extra thick.
The harder part was getting the FH box back up on top of the hive, for two reasons:
- I had to add a 4th box to the hive so now I had to lift it up higher
- You have to lay the queen excluder on top of the top box and then you can NOT “scoot” the FH box onto the top box of the hive like you would normally do. If you did, the excluder would simply slide off the hive. You have to actually lift the FH box and lower it down exactly placed on the excluder.
It actually took me two tries to get the thing up there and on the queen excluder.
I had to have a sit down afterwards and really think this through. I can’t be lifting 85 pounds or more every time I inspect the hive. How could I avoid this? IF you drain the FH box before you inspect, the FH box would be lighter. But you can’t time the bees capping off the honey just exactly at the same time you have to inspect the hive.
Because I use 8 frame westerns (instead of 8 frame deeps), I have to inspect the bees about every 10-14 days and you always have to manage the hive down. The queen has a much larger tendency to chimney in the 8 frame westerns and if you wait 3 weeks, she’ll be all laid up in the top box, with the bottom boxes empty, and ready to swarm or will swarm. This has been brought up by those in the beekeepers association. It’s just something you have to deal with (more frequent inspections and managing down) if you 8 frame westerns.
If I moved to using 8 frame deeps, I could go a month between inspections. But I don’t use 8 frame deeps because they’re too heavy. I want this to be enjoyable and to be able to do this for a lot of years. I can’t do that with boxes that weigh 60-80 pounds. My 8 frame westerns at their heaviest full of honey weigh about 45 pounds.
That means that every 10-14 days, I’ll have to move this ridiculously heavy FlowHive box off the hive and back on the hive. I’m not entirely sure that’s the way I want to go.
It makes me want to email those Aussie’s and ask them if the cute little wife of his has every actually had to inspect a hive with the FlowHive on top, or if it’s just been the guys doing the heavy lifting.