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Late Spring Bee Checkup

June 22, 2009

Ed, a local beekeeper, came to check out our hives for a three week checkup last weekend. Robby is out of town, so he arranged to have some members of CEIBA help keep an eye on the hives. We had gotten a late start with our bees but each queen came with 5 frames of brood and honey. In just a few weeks, the bees have really established themselves and Ed determined it was time to add the second box on the hive. This will give each hive 10 fresh frames to build comb and expand the colony size.

Capped Brood

This frame is full of capped brood.  Brood is the general name for combs that have eggs and larvae.  The worker bees feed the developing larvae before sealing them in with a cap .  In a few weeks these bees will hatch and the process will start over again with the queen coming around and laying eggs in each comb.  In this way, the colony will double and triple in size very rapidly.

Bee emerging

In the center of this photo, a bee is hatching from the comb.  We watched as the bee ate away the cap.  Like eating corn on the cob, she went back and forth chewing her way out.  After she leaves, the workers will clean out the comb and get it ready for another egg.

Honey Combs

This is what the comb looks like when the bees decide to store honey instead of brood.  This looks like it was a fresh frame to begin with since you can still see in the lower left that the comb hasn’t been fully drawn out by the bees.  There must be a lot of nectar flowing now because even though the comb isn’t finished, the bees are already storing and capping honey.  In the upper right is capped honey.  To process the honey, the bees sit over the comb and fan their wings to evaporate off the water.  Once the honey is sufficiently concentrated they seal the comb off.  You can tell the difference between capped honey and capped brood by the color.

I took lots of photos so we could inspect the bees in depth without keeping the hive open for too long.  Click the thumbnails to go to a flickr set of the event.

more bee pics

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2009 12:06 pm

    Great post, JP. I enjoyed getting a thorough bee update.

  2. Robert permalink
    June 25, 2009 10:32 pm

    Thanks for the update JP! I’m really glad to hear the hives are doing well and that you could put on the second deep super. I wish I could be there to watch the bees and the garden grow. It’s pollinator week, which is a celebration for all pollinators. Let me know when you and Ed are going to meet again.

    For anyone who is interested, the Illinois Dept of Health recently decided that honey extraction can be done in a certified kitchen/facility. Some bee keepers are opposed to this because honey has antibacterial properties that prevent growth of bacteria that cause sicknesses. Yet, the rule will stop bee keepers, who have extracted honey for years, from extracting honey. Steve Chard from the department responded to a question: “Elizabeth Watkins at IDPH administers the program and if you are interested in contacting her, she can be reached at 217/782-7532. Their program focuses on extracted honey. They consider the extraction of honey to be an act of processing, thereby necessitating the sanitation standards for honey houses. They don’t have the same requirements for comb honey, realizing it’s in its natural state. In addition, the IL
    State Beekeepers Association has been discussing this issue with IDPH,
    but has not had much luck. Feel free to contact Ken Haller, past
    President of the IDPH at 630/969-1800 if you would like to visit with

    I have not contacted them yet, but I’m going to soon. I think that a good compromise would be to certify the people to extract the honey, and not the facility. This would allow anyone to take a short course and then be certified to do it. Any other ideas?

    Today I used a solar cooker to cook two pots of mango-banana bread. It took about 2.5 hours in the sun from 3pm to 5:30pm, and the kids found it really interesting.

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