We have been having warm spring days, but while nights were yet falling below freezing we kept our hives in winter black. Now with warmer nights finally upon us and a sunny weekend we could finally put away the insulating panels, clean up the late Clarissa and Dorcas, and give our surviving Beatrix her first sugar roll of the season.
Saturday, we went through the bars of each deadout, cutting and saving any large enough chunk of honeycomb for future extraction. The other comb, empty or with uncapped liquid, was scraped off into a different container for eventual wax melting. The bars were dumped into a bucket to be inspected for re-use later.
The hive bodies, after scooping out what dead bees and detritus we found, were scraped clean of irregularities like the wee waxy remnants of once-attached comb or the thick propolis lines indicating a follower board having been glued in place. We do not wish to remove all the propolis and return to bare wood but merely to remove temptation from the new residents. Finally, a light scrubbing of the floor with a dilute oxalic acid solution to remove some mold.
After a spell drying in the sun the two hives were placed upside down on their stands, perpendicular to their usual orientation. (See the picture above.) This will let them further air out while keeping out any rain. The rooves are atop them although the ekes are being stored in the barn for now.
And on Sunday we tended to Beatrix, who would prove still full of bees from one end to the other. We uncorked two more entrance holes, which were put into use instantly, and started our inspection from the follower board as usual. We were only a few bars in when we began seeing capped brood and, remarkably for us, spotted the queen. That we did not see any eggs is no surprise but there should have been some larvae somewhere large enough to get our attention if the queen has been laying steadily. Beatrix has always been a confusing hive.
Soon finding a brood frame covered with nurse bees we peformed the sugar roll to find thirteen mites in our half cup sample of bees. The suggested threshold for treatment is nine, so we have Api Life Var, a thymol based remedy1 on the way.
We carried on inspecting the other combs, finding some capped drone cells as well as some drones wandering about but not a lot of either. We found no queen cells or cups at all2, so threat of swarming is not as imminent as we feared. They still have several combs of honey left and are busily making more. We ended up removing the follower board entirely and arranging empty bars to fill the gaps.
As we headed back to the house, we marked how surprisingly smoothly the inspection had gone. Oh, we did have to return to the house or barn to fetch the odd forgotten or unanticipated item. But we readily fired up the smoker and wielded it without kippering ourselves. The sugar roll seemed like returning to bicycle riding. No one got stung. Are we finally getting the hang of this beekeeping lark?
1Not to be confused with ApiVar, which contains the acaricide amitraz.
2On the other hand, Clarissa had a comb with nine queen cups. Her bees must have liked to stay in practice.