I'm realizing, the more I do this, the better it is to have an end in mind before I go in. There's no point in disturbing the girls unless I have a decision point to make, and I need to figure out what it is I'm going to do. There are some books that say that in order to manage a hive properly, you need to go in every week. On the other side, there's several that say that every time you go in, you set them back by a week, and others that say that during good nectar flow in the summer you should never go in or you'll interrupt them badly.
I don't think I did much interrupting today, and it was good to see how far the ladies have gotten in just the month I was away.
I think another reason I needed the very clear plan before I went in was because I'm still jet-lagged and kind of woozy during the day. Mental processes haven't been as clear or as clean since the trip, between the cold and the drastic time shift. I keep wanting to sleep during the day and waking up at night, even more so than usual, so I've been fighting all that, too.
One of the things was just to get rid of the feeder, because while the sugar water was really good for getting the colony to build up its numbers, the bees were likely to take and store the sugar syrup instead of honey, and it just doesn't hold as well as actual nectar from flowers of all kinds. So I just took the whole top off, put the feeder out on the grass, and trusted that the two workers that were left in it would find their way home.
The first three frames were empty of everything but bees exploring their surfaces. The fourth was partially built on the right side, and the left was facing this particular frame, which is almost entirely built out! I was very happy to see this nearly filled with bees drawing out the wax. It's a clean side, with the wax nearly the same color as the foundation, and you can see through it, so no buildups from brood or anything, yet.
It was interesting to see this frame in contrast to the center one and the ones on either side of that, which were filled with nearly complete brood. Since it's been about a month since I put this box on, if the Queen had gone directly for the first frame when I put it on, there was time enough for a whole round of baby bees to grow up (takes them 21 days to hatch, develop, morph, and break free to fly.
They seem to be doing quite well, as there are so many of them, but one thing I really did notice was that they were becoming more and more the same. That the all-yellow or all-black workers that I'd started with just weren't there anymore. All the ladies are looking more like sisters, now, with the same pattern of stripes and the same brown fuzzy thoraxes.
The dying workers are being tossed out the front door, too, and I'm seeing more and more of them piled up just off the edge of the entrance. They dry out into these abstract shapes of just the carapace and look almost like dried flower buds.
The interesting thing was seeing that these frames were duller, more solid than the open, airy, uncapped frame where the light could just shine through. These were solid with developing bees.
It was really cool to see it up close, and then I realized that the queen is on this side of this frame! She's surrounded by attendants, and she's laying and she has a black thorax instead of the fuzzy brown one that the workers have. She's the only bee that isn't head-first into a cell... and if you click on the picture, it'll take you to flickr, where I've got her marked. *laughs*
The amazing thing was knowing now that she's re-laying the frames, and putting eggs into used, cleaned cells the way she's supposed to, and that it's going quite well. None of the bees seemed particular disturbed by my moving things around, and no one was attacking me and none of them were particularly agitated by my observations. I hadn't crushed anyone, for all that there were a lot more bees in there. Counting the full frames, the estimates are about half a pound of workers per completely covered frame, so I have approximately six pounds of bees now, about doubling what I started with, even with the loss of all the old workers.
Given that the workers were starting to explore the frames to the side, and that they'd only really half-filled the boxes I'd given to them, I decided not to add a new super, yet, and let them just do what they were doing.
Over the weekend, one of our neighbors was having a garage sale, and her flowering tree in the front yard was just covered with bees. She's near enough that she was happily saying that she was feeding my girls... *laughs* I loved that. They weren't bothering her or anyone that was going to the sale, staying strictly on the blossoms. And I actually found a flowering cherry tree nearby that was also covered with the girls, so they're doing quite well in our neighborhood. Next up will be the Russian sage, the butterfly bushes, and plenty of summer roses. It's funny how aware I now am of the local flora...