After a demonstration on how to light the smoker Alexander smoked the hive entrance. This tricked the bees into thinking there was a fire and they’d need to save their honey and flee. Eating the stores gives them a feeling of fullness which, in theory, should keep them satisfied and calm while we have a look around.
We took the roof off and removed the super containing the blanket. This keeps them cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. Using natural materials rather than insulation tiles allows moisture to escape. A damp hive is not a good environment for the bees as it encourages mould growth, disease and reduces the temperature of the hive.
We removed the next super containing the rapid feeder. This will no longer be needed as the time for feeding has finished. Late feeding can result in the bees being unable to reduce the sugar water to stores in time for winter and may give them dysentery.
Alexander had a good look in the top brood box and was keen to lift some frames but I did the lifting because the frames, being full of stores, were very heavy. He did get to see how to use the hive tool and we discussed the differences between nectar and honey. With only the outer frames being empty, there should be plenty of stores for the winter months.
Alexander did an excellent job using the hive tool and lifting frames for inspection in the bottom brood box. He was very knowledgeable about bees, having read quite a few books on the subject, and he put this knowledge to good use. He was able to see undrawn comb, drawn comb, stores and capped brood. He saw the bees’ own extended comb at the bottom of the shallow frames and enjoyed watching the bees do their ‘conga line’ between the combs. Niall and Alexander were unfazed at being covered in bees and neither were stung. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky and was stung on the chin again. I’ve been sporting a large double chin for several days now!
My only observation was that I didn’t see any evidence of fresh laying. The queen should be reducing her lay for the winter so hopefully that’s all fine.
Finally, we checked that the Varroa medicine strips and then closed up the hive. We checked the bottom board and the Varroa count was less than in previous weeks but there was still some chalk brood. I’ll keep an eye on this.
We were going to attach the winter mouse guard but we realised this should have done this at the beginning of the inspection when all the bees were inside. Not at the end when many were outside. A job for next time along with some woodpecker protection!
As we left, there was a bee with packed pollen baskets resting on Niall. I put her on my finger and took her back to the hive.
Thanks to Niall and Alexander for being fantastic beekeepers – knowledgeable, gentle, calm and most importantly excited to be there. You are welcome back any time.