What a difference twenty-four hours can make. The beetle traps came early, so I made a trip to the hives to install them. In the process, I also took a look at the monitor tray to check on the beetle drop (how many beetles or larva that were falling down through the screened bottom board), and I'm pleased to say there were only two or three. I hope that this is good news, and not just because the beetles are hiding. However, when I opened up the top to install the traps I did not see too many around the frames, either. I think moving the hives into the sun made a big difference.
My lighter had ran out of fuel, so I did the whole thing without smoke. It went pretty well, except during my inspection of the second (larger) hive. The bees' energy seemed more agitated, which could have been due to any number of reasons. Perhaps the beetles, or perhaps the torrential rain we had had the night before.
I pulled a couple of frames, but when I was turning one around I moved my fingers too much and got on top of a bee who got mad about it and stung me. I managed to reposition the frame back into the hive (I had intended on switching it to the opposite side of the box anyway) without causing any more commotion. I took a minute to let the girls settle down and then put everything back together. My one and only sting during an inspection, with no protective gear or smoke - I feel pretty good about it.
I also saw what does look like a queen cell in one of the outer frames of the lower hive box on the smaller hive. It was uncapped with no egg. I'll have to keep an eye on it. With that hive I also swapped two of the outer frames from the lower box with two center frames of the upper box to help draw the bees up there a little more.
In summary, I'm feeling much better about the state of things, but I'll just have to see how things go. Here's a video on my sting: