May 7, 2011

Found the Queen!

Kerstin and I took stock of the frames in our hive to see how the little bees were getting on. I learned that they start building comb in the inner frames and work their way towards the outer ones. As such, most of the inner frames looked similar to the image above. The yellow-tinged comb is where the brood are reared. The combs are open while the larvae (white blob pictured below) develop. When the larvae pupate, the combs are sealed until the adult worker bee chews her way out of the comb. She then cleans her comb to make way for a new egg and takes a job as a nurse bee, feeding and tending to the larvae. Once she is older, she'll become a guard bee and eventually a forager. The capped comb at the top with the white wax cover is nectar that's being aged to become honey for feeding the baby bees developing below.

Kerstin took out each frame in turn and we examined both sides while taking note of the amount of comb construction, larvae, nectar, pollen and capped comb. We also took stock of drone vs. worker larvae. Most of the brood we encountered were worker brood with an occasional drone cell here and there. This is what you want to see in your hive because the drones serve little purpose other than being colony's testicles. Workers, on the other hand, are its lifeblood.
The workers peeked out at us as we removed their frames one by one, but remained calm and collected throughout the whole census. As someone who hasn't ever handled bees, I thought it was remarkable how well they tolerated the inspection.
We located our queen, Isabella, shown below at the bottom right with her attendants surrounding her. She has a much larger abdomen than the worker bees and unlike the striped abdomen of her daughters, hers is completely golden, . She was laying eggs on frame 7, which had not been fully drawn out. She seems to be doing her job making babies quite well. We may be ready for a new super in just a couple of weeks!

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