We inspected our beehives Sunday afternoon for the first time this season. Most beekeepers evaluate their colonies based on visual evidence: Are the bees active? Is the queen laying a nice brood pattern? How much comb have the girls drawn out? How big does the colony appear to be?
Those things are all worth considering, but I can usually determine the relative health of a colony the instant I open the hive cover.
A weak colony has a pungent, acrid odor that overpowers the natural smell of beeswax and honey and worsens in the presence of opportunistic parasites such as wax moths.
A strong colony, on the other hand, is the most intoxicatingly fragrant thing on earth. It smells of honey and beeswax, of course, but stronger, and with headier scents — exotic flowers, freshly mown grass, and something subtle and indescribable — mixed in. If somebody could replicate the smell of a healthy colony of honeybees, that person would almost certainly put Yankee Candle right out of business.
I knew as soon as I opened the outer covers Sunday afternoon that we had three very healthy colonies. We went ahead and opened the inner hive covers and pulled a few frames, just to confirm my evaluation for Ron, whose sense of smell isn’t quite as sharp as mine. Our findings are below the fold.