Honey Super Filling Up Slowly

I inspected Hive #1 today and was glad to see that the honey super is starting to fill up with honey. Nine frames spread out in a ten frame super, alternating plastic with foundationless frames. I didn’t take any photos or videos. Snapping off photos during an inspection, especially when I’m alone, only complicates things (but I’ll do what I can for more instructive posts). My main concern was to make sure the queen wasn’t honey bound. I found three frames in the middle of the top box that looked like this…

…worker brood in the middle surrounded by pollen and honey, only this time everything looked dirtier and darker because the comb isn’t fresh like it was when the photo was taken last year. Still, it’s more or less what I wanted to see. Honey and pollen, new worker brood and enough space for the queen to continue laying.

The foundationless frames in the top box of Hive #1 were migrated to Hive #2 a while back, so it’s a mostly conventional hive now with perhaps three or four foundationless frames left over in the bottom brood box. The minimized number of foundationless frames — which perhaps knocks back drone production — might have something to do with the honey super filling with honey now. (Pure speculation.) The bees in Hive #2, a hive that is about 80% foundationless, show no signs of building in their honey super yet. So go figure. Okay then, let’s move on to even more boringer details.

I saw drones near the uncapped honey, but no drone comb. As some of you may know, I have a real hate-on for the drones. I’m happy to see their numbers dwindle and even happier not to see any new drone comb. The bottom box could easily contain drone comb on the foundationless frames, but I didn’t inspect it. I found plenty of empty worker-sized cells on the frames in the top box for the queen to lay, so there’s no danger of the new queen becoming honey bound and probably minimal risk of swarming. That’s good enough for me. I’d be content never to tear apart the brood chamber if I could get away with it.

I did find some drone comb, but it doesn’t count as real drone comb. Let me explain. Frame #9 in the top brood box was a medium frame added a couple weeks ago along with other medium frames. The medium frames had some honey comb built on them after a week, which I then pulled up into the honey super in the hopes of encouraging the bees to build in it quicker. That little strategy seems to have worked, at least for Hive #1, but I had to leave this one medium frame in the brood box last week because the queen was on it and I didn’t want to mess with the queen.

At any rate (I realize all this might be confusing and you can just skip it if you want to), when I pulled out the medium frame today, it was 90% capped with honey, but it also had a load of uncapped drone comb hanging off the bottom bar — effectively a foundationless portion of the hive. I cut the drone comb off and placed the medium frame full of honey inside the honey super. I then replaced the missing frame in the brood box with a fresh waxed sheet of Rite-cell foundation. The Rite-cell has deeper, partially drawn out cells on it. With any luck, the bees will completely draw out the comb on the Rite-cell foundation and get down to business in no time.

I was planning to remove a deep frame of honey and replace it with some Rite-cell to make sure the queen had room to lay, but I removed the medium frame instead. I would prefer to replace any removed frames with fully drawn comb, but I don’t have any and won’t have any extra on hand until next year. So I make due with the Rite-cell instead, which I hope is the next best thing to drawn comb. I dunno.

Another observation: The bees in both of our full hives, Hive #1 and #2, seem to use the bottom box exclusively as the brood chamber and the top box for honey stores. I can’t prove this by pulling the brood chamber apart and examining every frame, but the top box in Hive #1 is 90% full of honey and pollen, and whenever I look through the bottom entrances of both hives, the cluster of bees hanging off the bottom bars is massive. Hive #2, the mostly foundationless hive, has a much smaller cluster, but the bees in both hives only use their bottom entrances. I think that’s because the bottom box is the main brood chamber. The top box is for honey. Again, pure speculation, but that’s what I’m thinking.

I may inspect Hive #2 tomorrow. I’m curious to see how it’s doing. I didn’t requeen it like I did Hive #1, and it’s got most of the foundationless frames now. So it’ll be interesting to see how all that’s working out. I’ll take pictures if I can.

Our two nucs are coming along fine. One is much slower than the other, but they’re getting there.