My first Summer as a bee keeper is starting to draw to a close. I've had decidedly mixed results. Of the 3 hives, one of them is thriving and the other two are failing. The bees in those two other hives just don't seem that interested in building comb (they have to build comb in order for the queen to lay eggs or store honey and pollen).
When I get back from my latest trip (I'm currently on a plane on the way to San Fran) I am going to merge the two weak hives in the hopes that it will give them a fighting chance this Fall. I'll have to aggressively feed it.
I don't have any pictures handy of my apiary but it is a golden rod paradise. There's definitely no shortage of flowers to forage. My one strong hive appears to be in pretty good shape for the Winter.
Still, I'm not discouraged. I learned a lot and I still plan to have 5 hives next year. Probably the biggest thing I learned is not to mess with them so much. The hive I spent the least time on did the best. I also think that I overfed the two weak hives. The one strong hive I only fed in the Spring. Next year, I'll take a much more hands off approach -- feed in Spring and Fall but in the Summer they're on their own.
When I did my most recent inspection, I had to tear things apart quite a bit. I was wearing a lot more protective gear (thankfully) as I got 3 stings in my gloves. To be fair, I wouldn't have been so quick to nudge bees around with my fingers if I were bare handed.
One thing I've also learned is that bees die. A lot. I used to spend inordinate amounts of time making sure I didn't crush any bees when I put the tops back on. But as the hives get bigger, they get more defensive and the one real sting I got was due to me pushing bees with my thumb away from the edges. Now, I will try to get as many as I can off the edges but I have had to accept that I'm going to probably kill a few bees each time I open them up.