The swarm seemed to love their new home! The bees quickly settled and began to make honeycomb. Our new favourite hobby was to watch the bee highway as the bees exited the hive and flew across the yard, making a beeline to the flowers and the creek 100 metres away.
We gave the bees some time to adjust and when we peaked in the hive's side window just three days later, we could already see honeycomb had been built. There were so many bees compared to the size of the comb, it was hard to see exactly what they were building. I had been warned that with top bar hives there is a danger of cross-comb, which occurs when the bees build the honeycomb across the bars instead of along the bars, making it impossible to check the hive without damaging the comb and spilling the contents. As recommended by another beekeeper, I rubbed some beeswax along the bottom of the top bars where I hoped the bees would attach the comb. Maybe they would have done it anyway or maybe the wax guide helped, but at my first hive inspection, I was thrilled to find 4 honeycombs perfectly positioned along the top bars.
The Buzz: Worker bees make wax for the honeycomb from 8 wax glands on their abdomens. Making wax uses a lot of energy and resources! The bees must work hard to keep hive temperatures at 33-35°C and it takes 8-13kg of honey to make 1kg of wax, so there needs to be plenty of nectar available. Honeycomb is super strong, too. Comb weighing 500g can hold up 10kg of honey!*
In just 3 weeks, the bees produced 8 combs along the top bar and there is nectar in the hexagonal cells. Un-bee-lievable!
Now if only I could find the queen...
*This fun fact is from the bee bible Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand by Andrew Matheson & Murray Reid.
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