View of the hive after opening the bottom vent board. Please note the ginormous cluster of bees. (Oh, and also the cork that is still in the third entrance hole.)
The hive was installed over five weeks ago. According to the barefoot beekeeper, I should have checked on them and moved the dividers out to give them more space about four weeks ago. Did I? No. It was one excuse after another: too busy, too scared, too rainy, too scared, too cold, too scared, didn't have my tyvek suit yet, too scared, etc. In my defense, however, I have been peeking at their hive (from a safe distance) quite often. Lots of bees going in and out, seemingly normal activity, and so it was easy to put off. Then last week while doing my peeking, I saw hundreds of bees clinging to the outside of the hive near the entrance holes - like they might be running out of room. So after four more days of excuses, today was the day - warm and sunny, just the type of day that makes bees happy and content, with most of them out foraging for honey. Looking at what now seemed to be a couple thousand bees clustered on the outside of the hive, all I could think was "Most of them gone? How could this be the minority?" If the thousands of bees still in and on the hive are any indication, then clearly the queen lived and is laying eggs like gangbusters. She is one fertile mama.
So I made up a batch of liquid bee smoke, donned veil, jacket, gloves, rubber boots, and the new tyvek suit and walked that long, lonely walk to the end of the driveway where the bees live. Wow, was I hot. And a little claustrophobic. Even without the tiniest bit of skin showing, it was still unnerving. So first thing, I sprayed the liquid smoke on the cluster at the front of the hive as well as every bee flying anywhere nearby, then I released the bottom vent door and sprayed the bees that somehow managed to get in there. Kept spraying as I removed the roof. As a matter of fact, let me save time and just say that I really didn't stop spraying. Did I overdo the spray? Quite possibly. Most probably. Almost definitely. But it did seem to work.
So how were the girls, you ask? Well they've been busy. Busy building and filling comb. They even built comb on the dividers which wasn't a good thing since I was going to remove them. Since they were in use and full of bees, any one of which could be the queen, I moved them to the ends of the hive so that they at least have more room in there. Hopefully that won't mess them up too bad.
In retrospect, I quit too soon. I should have taken the opportunity to see if they have brood comb and honey comb built on different bars. I should also have removed the cork from the third entrance hole to give them more room to come and go. But quite honestly, when ninety percent of your brain is occupied with thoughts of an imminent bee attack, little details are easy to forget.
In conclusion, there are a couple things I'd like to say:
First - so far the bees seem to be thriving all by themselves without any help from me, thank goodness.
Second - if I can do this then nearly anyone can. So if keeping bees is an idea you've toyed around with, go for it!
Finally - that cork is staying right where it is and the bees will just have to deal with it.
By the way, is it just me or does that bottom vent board seem like a bit of a ramp for rodents and ants?