Below is a photo of the queen excluder. Not all beekeepers use these, but we're giving it a try. We put this on top of the second deep super. The space is big enough for a worker bee to pass through, but not the queen (hence, queen excluder). This helps ensure that any boxes placed above it are filled with honey stores and no brood.
|Mr. Bee taking a look at a frame from the South Hive.|
When we looked at the North Hive, we saw that on one frame, the bees had been busy making some queen cells. You can see them hanging off of the bottom of the frame (below), and we know they are queen cells because of the shape and size. Normally, this could mean the bees are preparing to either swarm (half the hive leaves with a new queen) or for a supersedure (replace the existing queen because she isn't laying or perhaps is gone). We've read that these cells are common in the first year of beekeeping, and we feel that with our limited knowledge, there's little we could do in either scenario, so we've simply cleaned them off and will wait to see what happens.
We really hope that our bees can make the honey they need to survive the winter, and we want to help them survive, but they are wild creatures and we are ultimately thankful for the simple chance to help them along. With the small amount of cleaning Mr. Bee has done on the frames lately, we've started a little pile of beeswax for us to keep and use for any number of things we could choose. The little yellow, sweet-smelling clump of wax has become a trophy for us. We agree that if it's all we're able to harvest this year, we feel it has been well worth it.
|Plenty of bees coming and going.|
Besides the sweet victory of holding that wax in our hands and having been able to taste a little of the honey, we were able to see something really neat during the last inspection - the one thing I had been hoping to see that day: young bees emerging from their capped cells for the first time. If you look below, you can see some little rips on the caps of a few cells, and even some antennae poking through. The bees were on their way out into the air for the first time! It was a special moment for me.