Yesterday, I spent virtually the whole day running around doing jobs I didn’t really want to do, seeing people I didn’t really want to see and finishing off boring stuff I wished I’d never started.

But then I was cool with this, for I knew that come late afternoon I’d be doing a job I did want to do, seeing over one hundred thousand guys I really wanted to see, and I certainly wouldn’t be bored!

So in the glorious sunshine of the late afternoon Diane, Matt, Jon and I had an appointment with our bees.A LEAF brood frame

What made this inspection all the more ‘fun’ was the for the first time, we’d be completely without our head beekeeper, Charles.  He’d be unavoidably called off somewhere urgent, so we were on our own.

Frightening!

What made it even more frightening was that we are just coming into swarming season!

Now, we weren’t frightened by the bees possibly swarming per se.  When bees swarm, you are less likely to get stung than at any other time!

When they swarm, the bees themselves are prepared for a possibly long journey, so they ‘fill up’ on nectar and pollen, and are so docile they have no intention of using their stingers.  Just imagine yourself after a huge Sunday roast.  All you want to do is ‘veg out’ in front of the TV.  Same with the bees, just without the TV!

No, we were concerned about swarming because we could potentially lose quite a few weeks’ worth of honey production.

We decided that Matt, Jon and I would take a hive each, while Diane oversaw the whole procedure, cameras at the ready.

Matt went first, and on opening his hive, we were pretty surprised to see that the ‘super’ (…honey store…) on the hive had hardly been worked on.A view of a brood frame.

Moving down, under the queen excluder, Matt opened up the top brood box, and we saw the reason why the top super had been so quiet.  The bees had been working down here, busily filling the new box with comb, then filling it with all manner of interesting stuff.

If you click on this photo to the left, you’ll see one of the frames that Matt removed.

The capped cells have larvae in them, ready to hatch in a few days.  Around this capped brood, you can clearly see the little ‘maggots’, swimming in nectar that will be capped soon, then further to the left of these, you can just make out even younger eggs that have only just been laid.

Fascinating, yes?

Now, can you spot the three male drones on this frame?

Two of them are in the centre of this photo pointing upwards, with the third still in the centre, but towards the bottom of the frame pointing downwards.  You can tell they’re drones because they’re bigger, and they have a characteristic ‘blunt bottom’, whereas the female workers have a much more pointy rear end.

When we saw this, we were greatly relieved.  It means that the queen is laying well, and on inspecting the cells, there were no signs of disease.A 'play cup' on the bottom of a brood frame.

This shot to the right shows another frame looking at it from the bottom.  The first thing to look for was just the sheer numbers of bees.  This appears to be a thriving colony!

The centre of this photos shows a ‘play cup’.  This is a dummy queen cell, and we checked it very thoroughly to make sure there wasn’t a young queen inside.  Thankfully, all clear!

Moving on to other frames, we noted that on a the bottoms of quite a few of the frames were these:-Capped drone cells.

These are capped drone cells.  You can easily spot these because they stand proud of the comb with little domes on them.  You can also see some young drone larvae about to be capped in the surrounding cells.  Notice as well all the nectar, glistening in the surrounding cells.  Just last week, this was fresh, new foundation!

Quick question: Can you spot the drones on this photo?  Top marks if you say up towards the top left of this photo!

Diane had spoken with Charles before we did this inspection, and he told her that if there were any queen cells present, then odds on, they’d be hanging from the bottom of the top brood frames we were inspecting.  There were none visible, so we were greatly relieved!

However, we saw lots of ‘bridging comb’ on the tops of the lower brood frames.Removing the bridging comb with the hive tool.  I removed this using the hive tool, as you can see in this photo to the right.  By taking this out, it should make it easier to take the brood boxes off in future.  Then again, the rate these hives are filling up, it’ll be re-made very, very quickly.

And so, to the ‘Main Lady’ of the day’s events.

Where was she?

Luckily, Charles had made sure on the last inspection that each of the three queens were marked with a white spot on their backs.

The white spot shows the queen.And here she is!

This is in the last hive that Jon inspected.  We assume other two had moved into the lower brood boxes as we opened them up.  As a rule, queens don’t much like the light or disturbance of a hive inspection, so they tend to hide away out of sight.

I’m sorry about the low quality of this shot.  Jon was moving this frame around quite a lot as I took it.

I’ll try to get a better one next time!

And so, to the title of this post.  You’re no doubt thinking by this that all we did was sit around ‘chilling out’, drinking tea!

Far from it!

No, the title for this post came from the almost overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility I felt as I walked home last night.

Yes, we’d spent over an hour in hot, sweaty suits, lifting pretty heavy frames, so the activity itself was far from ‘chilled out’.

Chatting with Diane about this later last night when she briefly came round to pick some stuff up, we both agreed that the ‘bee activity’ itself was ‘supremely chilling’.

There’s something so relaxing about working with bees.

Maybe this is why every beekeeper I’ve met has been this way.

I’ll chat with the others when I go over there today, and see what they say.

Maybe the ‘LEAF Effect’ is now combined with the ‘LEAF Bee Effect’?

Chilled.