It was quite nerve racking. I needed to; try and find the queen, look for brood (eggs and young) and for any queen cells (sign the colony might swarm), check the general health and temper of my new colony.
I also needed to change the old floor of the brood box* to the varroa floor, which sits better on my hive stand.
The colony is quite strong so I added a super* onto the brood box.
The inspection took two attempts, one on Thursday 28th, then Friday 29th May. I was so nervous I only managed to check the first 4 frames, before I decided to get on with moving the floor and adding the super. The bees were pretty negative about my intrusion and the brood box so crowded, I felt I was killing more bees than I was gaining any information.
So, in the hope that there would be more room in the brood box, I checked the remaining frames the following day. The bees weren't much more welcoming the second time, and I didn't catch sight of my queen. But I was a bit calmer and I felt I got more out of it. My colony seems healthy, the queen's laying and, other than a probable moth larva, healthy.
Bee keepers are lovely people, generous to those of us 'newbees'. In the last weeks I have fired off slightly panicked emails to 4 or 5 of them and received suggestions and support, and it's to them I owe the success of these first few weeks. In particular, Malcolm, the very experienced gentleman bee keeper I bought my bees from, he has been SO kind. Responding to my emails, letting me 'help' him with his bees for a morning and answering my never ending stream of questions.
After a morning of bee keeping at Malcolm's I came back home to do my first confident inspection, and I found my queen. Yay! However, the bees didn't seem to be taking much notice of the super with it's frames of brand new foundation. Boo - lazy little bees!
*The super is the structure that holds the frames with foundation (a thin sheet of wax) that the bees build the honeycomb on, which will eventually contain honey. It sits on top of the brood box, which is the structure that holds the queen, her eggs and young. After consulting with Malcolm, he suggested I add some drawn frames to the super, these are frames that have the wax honeycomb built on them already. The drawn frames allow the bees to get straight on with storing honey and encourage them to do the same to the frames with just foundation.
Yesterday I went down to the hive to pop the drawn frames (that Malcolm had very kindly dropped off on the weekend. - See LOVELY people bee keepers!) into the super. My clever little bees had already started drawing out the foundation themselves, three frames of it well under way. It is hard to describe how pleased I was without sounding like some kind of nutter. Suffice to say, I told my bees they were very, very, clever.
The kids have named our queen Bess, the workers are all called Buzz and the drones are all Dave. Which leads us to much hilarity as we stand at the side of the hive saying:
"Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz","Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz","Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz",
"Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz","Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz", "Morning Buzz"...
What can I say, it's a Bee Keeper's joke! And an inaccurate one as you wouldn't really see Dave outside the hive unless he was dead. But it makes us laugh.