My first bee hive inspection with a mentor

There’s a first time for everything

I had an extremely exciting day today. I met with Mr A* who had kindly invited me to see his beehives. It was the first outing for my bee suit and I have to say, it felt quite snug so maybe it’s time to lose some weight! Snugness aside, I felt well-protected and cool and I could feel the slight breeze as I stood by the beehives. It felt great.

*I’m respecting his privacy so he’ll be referred to as Mr A although that is obviously not his real name.
Photo of a hive
One of the hives with a Snelgrove board

The situation overview

There were five hives (including a nucleus) and what surprised me was the layout. It should come as no surprise whatsoever to any experienced beekeepers though! The four hives were comprised of two stacks of two hives.

First, Mr A gave me an overview of the situation which I have largely forgotten now but, in a nutshell, the nucleus is new, and he has concerns over the presence of queens in the four stacked hives. The theory is that they’ve flown off to mate and have been eaten or some other fate has befallen them.

Silence

As I stood there, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was. I have no frame of reference other than a gazillion videos but the entrances to the hives did seem a bit quiet. Mr A pointed out the overcast weather… so this wasn’t a great day for opening a hive but it could have been a lot worse. Given the situation, the benefits outweighed the risk as it had been a couple of weeks since the hives were last inspected.

The inspection

Inspecting the nucleus:

We saw the queen, she was longer than the workers and pretty fast on her feet. There were eggs and larvae. Some brood, some pollen, and some honey. The hive had a gentle hum about it.

This is where my memory gets hazy so I am going to get a logbook so I can shadow log properly. I can give a bit of a summary.

Inspecting the remaining hives

Two hives with hope

The next two hives were atop each other separated by a Snelgrove board. The top one had evidence of a queen with eggs and larvae and had a low hum, so we were satisfied with that. The lower hive had no evidence of a queen and the hives hum was noticeably louder. The bees weren’t aggressive, but they were quite unhappy. In this one, he had a Snelgrove combiner board and opened that up so this bottom hive could get used to the smell of the queen in the upper hive. At some point these hives would essentially be combined.

Two problematic hives

The next hives were atop each other, like the previous hives, and we found no evidence of a queen in either one although we did see a drone and some brood, and yes, they were angry. Mr A is going to ponder what to do with these.

Summary

All in all, I gained some confidence and experience. I handled frames, turned them correctly, didn’t panic at bees taking aim at my face and bouncing off my veil, and the nitrile gloves gave me enough sensitivity to avoid squishing a bee when I was replacing a frame.

Other learnings

We discussed available forage and I need to so some further reading on this, mainly from My Beekeeping Year Ian Craig via Scottish Beekeepers Association as this details forage availability according to the seasons in Scotland.

We discussed hive types and Mr A has a clear preference for National hives. I’m still thinking of the FlowHive2 but also acknowledge that the extraction equipment has not been used by Mr A for a couple of years, so any ease of extraction afforded by the FlowHive is almost a moot point at this time. Add to that, the difference between general take up of Langstroth format versus National is significantly in favour of National, this has given me food for thought.

We discussed Varroa mite and it’s prevalence and also some treatments. The current line of thinking is that Apivar is quite effective.

I’m looking forward to the next visit!

Reading homework:

My Beekeeping Year Ian Craig Scottish Beekeepers Association

Swarming: It’s Control and Prevention Snelgrove

Collins Beekeepers Bible

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