Year One beekeepers (me) are encouraged to inspect hives more frequently than Year Two onwards to gain experience. I took a beekeeping course in 2018 + have been studying beekeeping ever since. I'm grateful for academic knowledge but nothing compares to getting right in there + doing the work.
My inspection plan is simple; check hives for health + growth about once a week -- during good weather -- anytime between 10am-ish to 4pm-ish -- when the forager bees are out, OR when my intuition says to check them.
Every inspection reveals a wealth of information. Yesterday, I inspected HIVE 1. It appears to be the weaker of the two hives. So I moved empty frames in place of full frames in two spots to see if that draws the bees to fill empty frames.
Each box has 10 frames. I started a couple of weeks ago with two nucs -- a nuc is 4 to 5 frames with everything needed to start a bee hive. The nucs I purchased each have five frames filled with honey bee workers, drones + a queen, a full frame of capped honey + brood in other frames. Brood are the bees -- the cycle -- the queens lays over 1000 eggs a day in cells. The younger worker bees care for the eggs, feed + nurture them + help them at birth in a few days. During an inspection I look for brood growth. I started with five full frames -- now there are over six full frames in each of the two separate hives. Growth.
New beekeepers are encouraged to start with two hives instead of one. If one hive is weak the second stronger hive can support the weaker one by donating a strong frame. Makes sense. I can see how my two hives differ already.
Today I inspected HIVE 2. More experienced beekeepers online were telling me to remove the second box on my hives. The second box is where the bees store honey. When the brood box is full, the second box is their honey stores. They can use the honey stores to feed new baby bees, drones, themselves, the queen + for the winter. Any boxes added on top of the second box is supposed to be my honey, but for this first year I don't plan to take more than a jar or two of honey for myself. The online beekeepers suggested to wait until the brood boxes are 80% full before adding the second box. So today's HIVE 2 inspection was to include the removal of the second box.
And I wanted to add sticky paper to the screened bottom board to see if the hive has varroa mites.
When I was done I started to second guess myself. HIVE 2 had a lot of full frames. Why did I remove the second box? They will need more space very soon. If anything I should left the second box on HIVE 2 + remove it from HIVE 1, the weaker hive.
I took a break to think.
Online beekeeping advise is much appreciated + helpful -- but my intuition said that the second box is necessary.
So back I went.
This time I managed to do a lot of heavy lifting work to rearrange the cinder blocks for better ratchet tie down security, tilted the back of the boxes up a bit for water drainage during rain storms + took a peek in HIVE 1 to see that moving the empty frames did indeed make the hive stronger.
Lesson: Trust my instincts.
I managed to piss off about 30,000 honey bees with all the moving around, but it's done now. No stings yet.
Two cinder blocks aren't in the best shape so they will need replacing before going into winter.
Life metaphors of raising honey bees is becoming more apparent with every hive inspection + might even be an inspirational book one day -- especially the similarities of beekeeping + my daughter Emily's life + death.
So far, so good. I am honored to call myself a beekeeper. I am grateful for this opportunity. Live your dreams --
Sandra Clarke • A Work In Progress