Since the cutout, I left the bees pretty much alone. It’s been a week and they’ve been busy foraging. It’s strange to conceptualize the thousands of bees inside that box and only see a few bees coming and going as they forage. I’m not seeing a lot of pollen coming in – perhaps they bring that in later on in the evening. Nevertheless, duties await me – I need to see their progress on connecting the combs to the top-bars, clear any comb-work that doesn’t belong like wall attachments, tie up some scrap comb for them and just give them a good gander.
This is the first time for me to open a hive. I’m happy I chose a top-bar – only a few of the bars are removed at a time so the hive is never really wholely opened, which means I don’t have a mess of bees buzzing around me. I gathered my stuff together, mixed up a ziplock of sugar-water for the bees and got suited up. Outside I lit the smoker and gave the entrance a good but brief smoke. While I waited for the bees to respond to the smoke I removed the cover and set up the top-bar holder to string up the scrap combs.
It was pretty peaceful out there – not a lot of flying bees. I figured that I’d have many more flying around when I opened the hive, but that really wasn’t the case. I removed a few bars and saw a few curious bees at the back but no pandemonium. I stuck the camera in to get a bees-eye photo of the combs. It didn’t even faze them. That put me at a much greater ease.
I gathered a few bars and started stringing up the scraps from the cutout, then moved the bars in front of the ones I removed until I got up to the combs. The strings were still attached and the combs at the back hadn’t been worked on a whole lot, tho a few of them had connections to the sides of the hive. I moved the bars bearing combs back as I inspected, and a bar in I did notice more work at the top where they were connecting the combs to the top-bar.
As I want further in I noticed that I had to cut combs from the side-walls as I went – not a lot of cutting but usually just a small section here and there. However, these same combs had more extensive repair work at the top too – making them more fully connected to the top-bars. I popped in the honey comb scraps next to the existing honey combs, and a couple of brood combs further in – using those scraps to act as spacers between the much larger combs that had been partially connected together. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to do the inspection – the combs that were connected to neighboring combs were easy to cut loose from each other and separate now but would have been much harder later on.
During all this tampering with their combs, the bees remained fairly calm. A few attacked the bread-knife I was using and a few hovered in front of my veil, but all in all there was no big cloud of bees like I half expected. Not a single sting on the gloves. Most of the bees remained on the combs. Very few of them even came out onto the top-bars even.
Since some of the combs were not fully repaired yet, I didn’t do much more than separate a couple that had been glued together, putting the smaller scrap top-bar in between them to space them out and cutting any side-wall attachments. Next time if the combs have finally been fully glued to the top-bars, I’ll remove each one and inspect for nectar, pollen and evidence of fresh laying to make sure things are progressing amicably.
Once I was done placing the scraps on the top-bars and into the hive, I closed things up again and moved to the back of the hive where the ziplock of sugar-water is going to go. I had mixed it 2 parts water to 1 part sugar this time and the purpose is more to see if the bees will take it than anything. If they do I’ll put another baggy out there tomorrow – hopefully this will accelerate the repairs of the combs and the building of new comb. I placed the ziplock on the bottom board and took an exacto knife and cut slits on the top. Some sugar-water leaked out but once all the air was out, it stopped leaking. Now it’s just up to the bees to find it and have a drink. At least one bee was drinking up the spill. Very fastidious, these bees.
That was that. My first look into my new hive. Wasn’t nearly as exciting as the cutout, but it was a thrill nonetheless. I’ve stepped into the actual care of the beehive now – ensuring that the combs remain straight and separate and maintaining the health of the hive. I guess in some circles, that would make me a beekeeper. I still see myself as a bee enthusiast, tho. When I start pulling honey from this hive and adding more hives to my collection, then I’ll call myself a beekeeper. Nevertheless, that’s just semantics – in the end, I just love honeybees and am tickled to finally be caring for a beehive, with the opportunity of more to come. With the loss of so many beehives, I also see myself as a sort of conversationalist – every hive I tear out of someone’s walls is a hive rescued and added back into beekeeping care. I hope my writings inspires more of you to consider putting a hive or three in your backyards or apartment balconies, either proudly displayed or surreptitiously concealed. They’re so small and take up so little room and so little work and yet give us so much, almost anyone could have one – especially if you happen to have a garden too.