I posted some photos a couple days ago of what is probably the thickest combs of honey I’ve ever seen in any of my hives. Here’s the video:
(Thanks to Jonathan Adams for getting behind the camera.)
It’s not the most instructive video, but if it sparks the imagination of anyone curious about honey bees or beekeeping, that’s good enough for me. If I can instruct at the same time, well, that’s a bonus. The 1:50 mark in the video, for instance, shows how the bees begin to build comb by festooning. My explanation in the video isn’t the most articulate. I’m so used to beekeeping alone in silence, I felt awkward talking. Festooning is not a well-defined phenomena anyway, so my bumbling explanation kind of fits.
Now here are some things this situation has me wondering about…
How did the bees manage to make so much honey? The past winter and spring were absolutely miserable for honey bees. I lost two colonies over the winter and the spring was so cold, wet and miserable, the bees were stuck inside their hives until the last week of May and I expected at least one more colony would perish before we got any sunshine.
Then the sun came out in June and it hasn’t let up since. All the flowers that didn’t bloom in the spring because it was too cold instantly came to life — and so did all the summer flowers. So not only did the bees have non-stop warm sunny days for foraging — they also had access to possibly double their usual nectar sources. They’ve made the most of the past sixty days.
I didn’t check the colonies closely for signs of swarming after I reversed the brood boxes in April because their populations were so low well into the first week of June, I didn’t think swarming was a risk. I was wrong. (Note to self: Check for signs of swarming at least every two weeks from May to the end of July.) Two of my four surviving colonies have swarmed. I caught the first swarm five days ago. More videos of that particular saga are on the way.
My concern now is whether or not the colony that’s making the thick combs of honey is on the verge of swarming. I keep adding medium and shallow supers above the brood chamber and the bees consistently build new comb and fill it with nectar that quickly becomes honey. (I’ll probably harvest a nice chunk of it soon.) I don’t think they’d bother building new comb if they were on the verge or swarming. However, they are extremely chilled out bees. I’m not complaining, but I’ve noticed from past experience that bees gorging themselves on honey in preparation for swarming are lethargic and unperturbed by the presence of humans. Poking around the honey supers, I expected the bees to be a little more defensive. They couldn’t be more relaxed. So I’m not sure what to think.