Last week, on Mother’s Day, we did our first hive inspection since reestablishing our beehives with packages of bees in late April. We had opened the hives briefly days after installing the bee packages to check if the queens had been released and to remove the queen cages. The only other interference from us has been to remove the roofs and refill the feeder jars with more sugar syrup.
It was such a joy on this day to share the adventure with my favorite people, my husband Bob & my young adult children Beth, Emelia & Will. Bob & I wore our bee jackets and hoods; the kids were armored only with their cameras and curiosity. The day was mildly warm and the bees were actively foraging and bringing in lots of pollen. We chose not to smoke the bees before opening the hive. Our experience with smoke is that it seems to agitate more than calm the bees. We were looking for signs of active queens, eggs, larva, and capped brood and to check on the progress of comb building, nectar (sugar syrup) and pollen storage.
For each hive, in turn, we remove the roof and then the feeding jar station exposing the brood box to the open air. The first sensation to wash over you is the intoxicating smell of the bees, propolis, beeswax and honey. It is heavenly. Second is the audible buzzing of the bees as they continue going about their work despite the human invaders poking about. Then there is the appearance of guard bees lining up at the top of the frames to check us out, the movements of workers dancing about messaging their hive mates, and the choreographed busyness of everyone in the hive working together for a common goal. And finally there is the sheer beauty of the artwork they create, it is breathtaking.
As we carefully begin lifting each frame from the box to examine their progress, human bodies lean in, cameras are raised to capture the moment and a sense of awe permeates the apiary. The girls have been busy. Old comb has been repaired and polished clean. Cells are being filled with sugar syrup, some already being capped as honey. A kaleidoscope of colors, pollen- nearly white, light green, buttery yellow, deep yellow, bright orange, and nearly black are being stored away. Bees, backs covered with pollen, pollen pouches filled to bursting are everywhere. New combs are being built; exquisite, delicate, lace-like yet so strong. The queens have been busy also. There are many cells containing small white C-shaped larva as well many more cells containing larva that have been capped, a new generation of honeybees developing underneath. The first box on each hive is nearly full and a second box has been added so they have more room to work & grow their colonies.
We carefully put the frames and boxes back as we found them, refill the feeder jars with syrup and replace the roof. We all spend a few moments mesmerized by the comings and goings of the bees at the entrance. We take away with us many photos and a wonderment of the world we have been allowed access to.
Thank you girls for being so accommodating.