It was a HUGE day for the Whiting Forest hive! As you know from last week’s post, an expansion was in order. When we opened the outer cover of the hive, the bees were overflowing onto the inner cover. The photo shows Elly holding the inner cover with bees on top of it and the overflowing hive below. It was clearly time to put on an addition to their home. We added a second deep box of foundation frames. Together these two levels are known as the brood box. Their purpose is to hold the queen and all of her progeny. You may be asking, what about the honey? – As a newbie to beekeeping, I know I did. The queen and her workers are still working on creating a strong hive that can sustain their population. Bee keepers encourage the bees to fill two levels with brood before putting in place another level that will hold honey supers. We did this with minimal disruption because we were about to create CHAOS in the area.

Early in the morning, Elly had ventured to Deckerville to pick up two Nucs (short for nucleus hive). These differ from the original ‘package’ of bees we installed, because these bees come in a 5 frame nucleus hive. These hives are ready to get to work and in a more established state than packaged bees.

Two new hives ready for nucs to be inserted. (Original hive in the center of left image.)

As you can see from the photo, we had two new hives ready and two nucs to install (approximately 20,000 bees each). The first one we opened was loaded with bees and you could just hear them. The frames are removed one at a time and inspected for signs of a queen. In this first colony, we found older brood and emerging brood, but no signs of eggs or young larvae. We saw no queen, which is not uncommon in a group this size, but we found some signs that the workers are trying to raise a new queen. This means that the queen is either absent or not strong enough to keep the hive going. The photo below shows supercedure cells – drooping structures. These are the result of the workers taking newly laid brood and providing them with different conditions so that they will develop into a queen. We will need to check back in a few days to see if they were successful.

The second nuc was different. According to our expert, Elly, they were calmer – I wouldn’t necessarily know because of the already wild flurry of bees around us at this point. As the frames were pulled from the box for inspection and placement, there were obvious signs of an active queen and active workers…way more sealed brood cells, brood of all stages, no supercedure cells and freshly collected pollen on bee legs. After the transfer of all frames into hive, there were lots of ‘left over’ bees in the box. Our last concern was that we didn’t want to crush the queen when we put the lids on the hive. Elly shook the box so the bees fell to the side and inspected to see if she saw the queen in this group. Sure enough – there she was! Using the hive tool she was transferred to the hive and we watched to make sure she went safely down inside. I would not have expected someone to ‘pour’ bees…they are not a liquid, but it was cool!