Since I received my bee suit, we decided to do a hive inspection last week as well. When we opened up the hive, my heart sank. A month or so ago, we added frames to the fourth box on the hive and took out the feeder. My husband talked about getting another empty box to put on top so that we could add the feeder back because we only bought the four boxes so far this year. We fed the bees a mixture of white sugar and water, mostly because we were told that the bees needed an extra supply of food because they were starting their hive from scratch. However, I have been doing some reading, and natural and organic beekeepers do not feed sugar water. I talked to my husband and he said that he would leave the decision on sugar water up to me, and I decided to let the bees forage for all of their food instead of providing the sugar water. When we opened the box, the frames were empty. No honey. No comb. (Sigh.) I immediately had the "Oh, crap!" feeling. Had I made a mistake in wanting to go more natural?My husband has reassured me that these empty frames should not be a problem for the bees. We kept a queen excluder (a metal grate that keeps the queen in the bottom boxes to prevent her from laying eggs in the top box) on top of the third box, because this ensures that only honey is made in the top box since the top box is usually extra honey and where a beekeeper will harvest from. Okay. I felt better. We were only missing "extra" honey and we aren't going to harvest this year anyway.
We put the top box aside and found that the bottom boxes are FULL of bees. We found a lot of brood (eggs and larvae) and honey. We didn't see the queen. I have to say that I was disappointed at how much harder it was for me to distinguish the different bees and their jobs in real life versus a picture in a book. I'll have to study more! We also took a spoonful of honey from one of the frames. I just couldn't resist. I HAD to try it, and let me tell you, it was delicious! The honey had a much more subtle taste than store-bought which I liked better. I'm definitely looking forward to harvesting next year!
Hopefully, my husband is right and the lack of honey and comb in the top box doesn't mean disaster for our bees this winter. I think we will do at least one more check before winter, and hopefully we'll see some change in that top box then.