Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Checking the hives for Queens

Both hives had to be checked today to see if each had a Queen.

This is the first time doing this on my own. I am pretty sure the Top Bar Hive does not have a Queen. Everything in the comb looked like honey waiting to be capped. I didn’t see anything  that even resembled brood. The comb is so small I decided not to pull the bars apart to check in the middle. But I have pictures of both sides. This is the picture I took today.


I cropped this out of it. There are a couple cells that I am not sure of…but they could be pollen, or they could be empty.


This is of the other side…taken 2 days agosnapshot_012cs

I know I should probably try to combine them with the other hive…but I really would like to see how they do with a Queen.

These are from the Lang’s hive. The bees were trapped from a bee tree.


They have comb on 5 of the frames. No foundation in 4 of them. The only frame with foundation was given to me by my neighbor, George, from his hive to get the “trap out” started.

I removed the 5 empty frames to give me room to work. Then gently pried each frame loose and slowly slid it to the empty side. Frame  #5 has just been started. There are 2 small combs and the bees were “festooning” between them. (hanging together with their feet to measure).

Frame #4 is very well filled out.


Frame #3   At first I thought all the white was capped brood…but a more experienced keeper looked at the photo and told me it was capped honey.047cs 

Here is a close up of it. On one of the combs in another frame I saw cells with a raised cap like they build for Drones. I should have looked more closely…that was probably the brood.


When I slid frames #2 & #3 apart a piece of “cross comb” broke apart and uncovered at least 2 larva. I hated to see that happen. I was being very careful. Worked very slow all the time. larva is a good sign I have a Queen.  The frame of brood was put in there on 2.24.11.   That was 40 days ago. Any brood from that frame would have emerged by now so there must be a Queen laying in there. I did not find her. I was afraid I would mess up more comb and I might not have been able to find her anyways.  She can move from comb to comb much faster than I was willing to work.

The larva is just above the red lettering. There is a second on that is visible in the video. I think a bee is covering it right now.


I worked slow…did not have to use any smoke.  They never got angry..not even when that piece of comb split.

The video isn’t very good but it does show both hives.

So….if any of you “Beeks” out there see something that I didn’t …please let me know.  Any suggestions or words of wisdom are appreciated.

When I first started this post, I was going to get a Queen for the TBH.  I decided not to…..….I’ll try to combine the hives Wed. Bad storm coming thru this area tomorrow.

When I first caught this swarm, it was suggested on the Organic Beekeeping site that I combine it with another hive. At the time I did not have the second hive.

I felt pretty good about their chances until the ants killed a number of the bees….and now it looks as if they may have gotten the Queen. Or we may not have gotten her when we caught the swarm.

I wasn’t able to have George check the hives with me today. My husband was working on the dirt road coming into our place and it wasn’t passable, so I emailed him the photos. After looking at them he felt it was too small to survive even if I did get them a Queen, and said he would combine the two if they were his. I think I knew in my heart that was the right way to do it….just hated to give up. But it isn’t fair to the bees for me to take a chance on all of them dying, just so I can sit in my little blue chair and peek in the observation window to watch them. George’s experience and opinion mean a lot to me….it was that little nudge I needed to go in the right direction.

So….my next learning experience will be combining two different kinds of hives. I don’t mean kinds of bees (I wouldn’t know one kind from another)….but the hives themselves. After looking at the equipment….I think we can do it.



  1. What great photos! So nice to see.

    I think you're right about that little swarm. It looks much too small to have any chance of surviving on their own. How would you combine them? Will those top bars fit into a Lang box?

    If you put the word out about seeking swarms, surely you can find more bees for your TBH. (I sure hope to here!)

  2. I have some opinions if you care...

    Never try to patch through a bad colony. Always combine (esp this time of year) and you may be able to split in May and have two really good colonies.

    You will absolutely kill larvae every time you are in the hive. Usually though, it is larvae on top of frames or between frames. It can't be helped. Typically, it is drone larvae so is not a big loss.

    Having larvae in a hive is def not an indication that you have a queen. Only eggs prove a queen and even then eggs can come from laying workers. So, if you don't have a queen, after a while, some of the sterile females will start to lay unfertilized will end up with a hive full of drones and that means no honey. Laying workers lay eggs all over the place...multiple eggs per cell sometimes. On the sides of cells sometimes, etc. A queen's egg will (almost) always be right in the center of the bottom of the cell and there will only be one.

    Your pics with the white cappings are def honey. Brood cappings are usually not as pretty white. They usually look like cardboard...sort of. It's hard to explain but you def have capped honey in those pics you show.

    Also, you def have pollen in some of those pics.

    And don't worry about combining's easy. Just read up on it and do it!

  3. Warren...I do appreciate your opinion. I think the larva was between frames. I have combined the hives. I put the two bars with comb (very small) in the super. I'll give them a few days then remove the paper. Should I put the bars in the main hive? There were 5 empty bars there.

  4. You post brings back memories from my teens when I had a few hives. Isn't it amazing how the bees will allow you to work them as long as you do it correctly.

  5. Warren's advice is what I would give you. I use the traditional frames with foundation. I find it's easier to manipulate and inspect. I get very little bur comb that I have to remove.

    You need to shake off the bees to really see if you have capped larvae (looks brown as warren said). That frame with the capped honey may have had larvae in the center--that's where it usually is.

    Nice to hear from another beekeeper.

  6. I am not sure what I would do regarding the empty bars. I use all plastic frames in my hives (search HSC on my blog if you care) so I do not have to deal with some issues that other people deal with...namely building honeycomb. Glad to see you are going for it!


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