June 05, 2008

Comb building is underway

Turns out the colony isn't as that big after all, but there must be plenty of nectar flowing, as the bees have started three combs. Beautifully white and straight!

When a colony swarms, they make sure that many of the bees that leave are at the right age to make wax. All this work was done in just 7 days. They've built the combs toward the back, though, so we may have to move the bars – the brood combs should be in front and the honey stores in back* – when we do our first real inspection. It's too cold and damp – a very unColorado day – to do that today, so check back in 2-3 days.

I'm assuming these are brood combs (the nursery) because the queen needs to be laying eggs to replace the workers from the original colony. It takes 15-16 days for new worker bees to emerge and, since bees only live about 6 weeks, the bees from the original swarm will be dying off by then. Kinda sad.
*Maximum room for honey stores is needed, because over the course of the Winter, the bees will work their way through the stores. If they run out of room, they'll feel crowded and could swarm. Brood comb is white, and honey comb is yellow. The bees mix in propolis to make sturdier wax to hold up to the weight of the honey. Pretty smart, don't you think?

Addendum 7/24: These turned out to be honey stores. When establishing house, the bees first set about stocking the pantry. Of their 6-week life expectancy, a worker spends the first 3 inside the hive, so this stored food is vital.

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