Do to a variety of circumstances, I have really not gotten into the hives in nearly two months. I did a couple of honey checks in early July, but have not really looked further. I must admit to liking Michael Bush's suggestions more and more - http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslazy.htm
So, I went into the hives yesterday full bore not really knowing what to expect. There has been a lot of talk with some of me fellow beekeepers about hive beetles and summer feeding. I have been watching the entrances to see if they looked weird (not that I am sure that I would know). I also put up some beach umbrellas to try and protect them from the summer sun.
Hive #2 is in three mediums (on left), the top box had about 50% honey and the rest empty, the bottom two boxes were a mix of brood, honey and pollen. Seemed to be in pretty good shape. Perhaps they could use some feeding, don't really know if the "fall nectar flow" will take care of them or not. The lazy in me says that if they made it through the hot summer, certainly they will make it through the cooler, more flowerful fall.
Hive #1 (2 deeps, 1 medium, on right above) was unusual (as usual). The top box was nearly empty (this seems to have been the pattern even through the honey flow). Interestingly the bees had joined four of the foundations together in a zig zag pattern. I think they were just playing around up there. The top deep box was jam packed with honey and brood. It weighed a ton and seemed very healthy. The bottom deep, surprisingly to me, was full of pollen. Row after row of pollen. Is this good or ?
Hive #3 (4 mediums) had a completely empty top box. I went ahead and pulled it off. The next three boxes were very similar to hive #1. Partially filled top box, followed by a heavy honey/brood box, followed by a box full of pollen. Well, maybe this is how they like it! (picture is after I had moved the empty box)
Hive #4 (2 mediums) looked as good as I have ever seen it. They had essentially filled up the two boxes with honey, pollen and brood. The patterns looked good and all seemed well. I went ahead and put the box left over from hive #3 on top of this box to give them some more room. I'll probably need to feed these guys at some point to help them pull out comb in that top box.
Some other notes:
I must also say that Hive #1 is the feistiest hive that I have, it is where all of the stings that I have gotten (save one) have occurred. As I worked the hive yesterday I had a group of bees around each hand and had to walk away several times to catch my breath. My heavy gloves have been worth every penny.
I used the smoker yesterday and was able to keep it lit pretty well. Used paper in the bottom and a cut up old mop on top. I am still, however, not sure about its usefulness. It is definitely useful to move the bees, i.e. if I want to get them off of the top bars, the smoke works great. But it certainly does not seem to quiet the bees, in fact every time I use it the noise in the hive goes up, indicating to me that they are aggravated, not quieted.
I also saw (I think) my first hive beetle in the hive. It seemed bigger than I remember, but I squished it anyway. It was in Hive #2.
All in all, my lazy beekeeper style seems to have paid off :) I am about to go away for about another month so I am hopeful that they will be fine. I assume I will be readying them for the winter by then.