I had originally planned this inspection for Tuesday, only to realise, no smoke and no boots was a really bad idea, given the latest mood exhibits of my bees, so I conducted it on Thursday instead. Everything was in order, including the latest stars of the season: the wasps.
As predicted, the ratio of honey to brood frames has shifted again in favour of the honey, with actually more honey now than new bees. While my ladies are working hard to build up their stores using the now diminishing nectar resources, darker activities are taking place. Each colony has a group of guard bees. These are always alert, and always by the front entrance of the hive. Meanwhile, other colonies send out thieves, in search of easy honey to rob. These robber bees are sneaky, clever but most of all, they know exactly how bees work. They know that the best way to get into a hive, is to enter through any cracks that the guard bees cannot watch, primarily at the back of the hive.
As naive as the guard bees are, the worker bees know this trick (perhaps they were robbers before) and are adamant to seal every single gap in the hive, hence why it was almost impossible for me to open it. They also spread themselves throughout, all the way to the roof, so that they can spot any unusual behaviour within the hive. Unusual behaviour also includes, their frames being moved by a somewhat-familiar, giant human, who is trying to “inspect” them. The result is a cloud of bees, all surrounding the beekeeper, with a dizzying, buzzing sound and plenty little bees bumping onto her face net the whole time. This defensive behaviour sums up what is called the “dearth period”.
As if robbers are not enough, the bees have to now watch out for wasps. These close relatives are bored and are out to find easy food and to pick a fight. After closing the hive, I spotted two wasps, hovering around my hive. After many minutes of intense observation, I even saw the wasp kill one of my bees and then nudge it to double check its success. Wasps are also very important pollinators and part of the ecosystem’s balance (just like the earwigs that shared a roof with my bees) and as such I feel like a wasp trap might be too harsh a punishment. For now, the plan is to install a board underneath the hive (it is currently an open floor) and perhaps reduce the entrance size even further, to allow the guards to better protect the family.
Inspection Results: I am not getting any better at spotting this queen but there were brood of all three stages: eggs, larvae and capped. Therefore, nothing to worry about. The bees are lively and collecting honey at tremendous rates, preparing for the winter. Bees are now, understandably, very defensive against the wasps, robbers, the cold and perhaps me.