Today, on day 18 since transferring the nuc frames, we attempted another hive inspection, hoping to spot the queen and some eggs. This time we remembered the camera. Over the weekend we had picked up a bag of wood pellets used for horse bedding from our local Tractor Supply Company store to use in our smoker. Of the ways to keep defensive bees distracted smoke may be the hardest on them but also, according to some, most immediately effective. For this reason some beeks keep a smoker handy even if they do not smoke the hive as a matter of course. This struck us as prudent so after we smoked our bare hands we took the smoker out with us to the hive and kept it in easy grabbing distance. It should be mentioned that we had a hard time lighting it and keeping it going. Partway through our inspection it just went out but the bees were being good to us and so we daringly continued.

Starting at the end farthest from the entrances, we saw that the feeder was down to 500 ml of syrup but there were no bees in that area. Also there was syrup leakage on the floor. Could that entirely account for drop? The bees seemed completely uninterested in the syrup. We left it for now.

Sliding the follower away to open the bee compartment, we then began our march towards the other end of the hive. The procedure was to slide the current frame/top-bar into the opening, lift it out, take a picture of each side, examine it for whatever we could see, replace it, and slide it away to make room for the next frame/top-bar. When done, slide everything back into place, replace the roof, and go look at pictures.

The frames farthest from the entrances had come with stored honey, which was still there. They have not been dipping into their stores. Good. Then came two frames with odd-looking comb. These had come to us looking as if the foundation had been drawn out only in a few patches. No additional work was evident and there were no bees on them. Next an empty top bar followed by a top bar with two bits of comb started and a mere handful of bees at work. And then we were into the brood area.

On the first brood frame we finally encountered a significant number of bees crawling over the comb, hard at work. We could see capped brood (and not drone brood) and larvae in the central area. The open cells of the perimeter showed the glistening of nectar not yet concentrated enough to be honey. No eggs visible to us but we have mentioned our aging eyes before. We had brought a large magnifying lens with us and it was helpful but not helpful enough to spot the eggs, which we assured ourselves must be there. The rest of the brood frames looked much the same except that the perimeter cells showed pollen storage and more honey than nectar. We saw more bees at work and more larvae but still no sighting of eggs or queen.

And then came the top bar with the new comb being built, followed by the top bars with comb that our package bees had built. The bees were working on all these although not as many as on the brood frames. The cells mostly held nectar for concentration along with some pollen and capped honey.

Since the two partly drawn frames with odd-looking comb had neither brood nor food stores nor any interest at all for the bees we removed them, brought up the rest of the frames(which had stored honey), and added empty top bars at the far end. And so we replaced the roof and tied it down. We look forward to retiring all the frames and having only top bars. The roof will sit better and the bees won’t have gaps to move up through.

Throughout all this disturbance the bees seemed curious but calm. They climbed up atop the frames requiring a little brushing and water spray for us to be able to close things back up. A few crawled onto our bare hands but crawled back off either spontaneously or with a gentle prod from the other hand. No one was stung.

Back at the house, we examined the pictures. Although the shots were merely quick snaps of the entire comb with the default settings of automatic everything, we could zoom in to an impressive degree. When did consumer digital camera technology get this good? We were still unable to find eggs but we found the queen in the picture shown earlier. Click that image to see it full-sized and have a look around. She is easier to spot in this close-up taken somewhat left and up from the center of that mass of bees on the left side of that frame.

Now to leave the little dears in peace for a while.

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