I look after ten hives now, one of which does not belong to me: it's the colony located at the Lederer Youth Garden in NE DC. The hive was started from a package this Spring, and I had a devil of a time getting them going: I donated the bees, equipment and all, a few months ago, so they are officially government honeybees.
Here's the hive when I arrived today. The medium sitting on it's side is full of recently extracted frames from the roof bees, something I hope will give the girls a head start on additional winter stores. (I guess that means that DC is now the owner of yet another chunk of hive gear!)
My last visit took place on July 8, just before travel. At that time, I checked that the queen was still laying, gave them that green medium super with a few frames of comb, filled the feeder and hoped for the best. Those hopes were truly fufilled!
I also brought cappings and honey to put in the feeder, but decided to take a bit of a look inside since so much time had passed.
Here's a confession: even though it had been almost a month since I had even looked at this hive, even though it is a particularly important and privileged colony, it took every bit of self-discipline I had to push forward> You see, it was about 95 degrees F (33 degrees C) by the time I arrived, and I had been stupid enough not to bring any water or socks into which to tuck my jeans!
But the reward was great. Sweet, good-tempered bees were present throughout the top box, and by peeking between the frames I could see that every single one was filled with capped honey. And some drone brood. Hmmm.
This was the second frame in, even the frame at the edge of the box was completely drawn and filled. Somewhat worrisome: the third frame in had a mass of drone brood, and nothing but drone brood. This was a concern because I have dealt with three unreliable young queens this year, and even though the weather is frying-hot at this time of year, we really have to be thinking about the upcoming winter and whether the queen who is in place will be producing that big batch of fat, healthy cold weather bees we need to take us from October through the end of January (at least).
So once again I had the rare privilege of hefting an 80-pound (about 30 kg) box full of bees and honey gently to its resting place on an inverted telescoping hive cover. Sigh. Luckily, even though it is August, the bees were in no mood to get sting-y and I had enough coordination to keep from squishing anyone.
Also luckily, the first deep frame I pulled from the top brood box was full full full of lovely flat-capped worker brood: mom just laid all those drones in some frame that was warped when I transferred it over before vacation!
So I put back the frame, cleaned up those blobs of honey on top of the whole box (the ones that the girls above are eating) and reserved them to give back, replaced the honey medium, added the extracted box, replaced the hive top feeder, filled it with the blobs I had scraped and several pounds of cappings and honey, and closed up for a while. If I play it right, I can let the girls clean up for about a week, come back to get the now-clean wax (I use it for making soap), and begin the heavy feeding regime that helps keep the hive happy and ready for the season ahead.
Here's the newly-extended hive! Let's be honest: I've been worried how this season would go–anxious about potyential vandalism, about inadvertent interactions with the public, about being able to make the bees relevant to the whole gardening programme. The first two issues have simply not applied: the bees have a perfect location with the most desired flight path heading right over a field of corn, straight at a tree-lined creek. There are visual barriers and lines of trees and shrubs that keep anyone who is not already looking for the hive from stumbling across it.
I'd like to do better for the people–especially the kids–who use that garden, and my usual ideas (a soap making seminar, a presentation with an observation hive) are not bad, but they are not really tuned in to the garden's specifics. So there is room for growth there, too.