It’s 2pm and 20°C (70°F) in our backyard as I write this. A cool breeze but sunny. Three of our four hives are active and looking good. Hey, let’s go take a look:
Hives 3 and 4 were started from nucs last year and are doing well. Hive #1 is one of our original hives from 2010. It’s our most fully established hive. It was overflowing with so many bees that we had to add a second brood box to it a couple days ago. It shows no signs of slowing down.
Hive #2 — our foundationless hive — has also been around since 2010 and it still has its original queen. Some beekeepers say queens hit their stride when they’re two years old. Others say to requeen every year no matter what because young queens lay better and have the strongest pheromones (less chance of swarming). The reduced activity in the foundationless hive could mean the queen is failing: Her pheromones could be weak; she may not be laying well. It could mean a lot of things. I won’t know until I can do a full inspection, which probably won’t be until next week. I wonder what I’ll find…? Probably nothing.
It’s 21.5°C. It probably won’t be this warm again until July.
Read on . . . »
I don’t usually post videos that aren’t my own, but this video from Fat Bee Man works well as a follow-up to yesterday’s long winded post about our first checkerboarded hive. Fat Bee Man says, “When the bees get full [i.e., when the hive gets full], they do what’s natural. They’re going to multiply, so they subdivide.” That is, the crowded colony produces queen cells in preparation for swarming. And then they swarm. Adding empty frames between every other frame gives them something else to do.
Fat Bee Man’s version of checkerboarding completely splits up the brood nest. He can get away with that in a warm place like Georgia. Cold-climate beekeepers may want to stick to checkerboarding only honey frames.
The video is also full of excellent hive inspection tips for beginners. How to smoke the bees gently, how to spot real queen cells — all kinds of good stuff. Note that Fat Bee Man doesn’t wear any protective clothing. Do not try that at home. He’s apparently bred a strain of stingless bee. That’s almost too good to be true.
This is a long boring post that most first-year beekeepers can skip. You can also skip it if you can interpret the diagram below. That tells you everything you need to know. If your hives are exploding with bees, though, well…
I checkerboarded a hive for the first time yesterday. It wasn’t planned and I didn’t have my camera with me, but I whipped up a nifty little diagram to illustrate what I did — and I’m not saying what I did is right. But anyhow… I reversed the brood boxes on one of our hives (Hive #1) last week and didn’t have time to scrape off the bridge comb / burr comb that had built up on the frames over the winter. Unlike the last brood box reversal, all I did was exchange the positions of the boxes. I didn’t touch the frames. So yesterday during a brief hot spell (17°C), I decided to pull the frames, clean them up and inspect the hive while I was at it. Well, in my 661 days of beekeeping, I’d never witnessed so many bees packed into one hive, and most of the foragers weren’t even home.
The frames in the bottom box were full of brood and pollen and some honey — and drone cells packed into every crevice. The frames in the top box had some brood in the middle, but most of the frames were being backed-filled with nectar on the way to becoming honey — thus reducing space for the queen to lay. So that was it: I decided to checkerboard the hive right then and there. Otherwise the queen could become honeybound and trigger a swarm — I mean a splinter colony — and that probably wouldn’t go over well with my neighbours. So here’s what I did if you can figure it out:
B = brood frames (and some pollen).
F = foundation (empty).
D = drawn comb (empty).
Note: Imagine the frames in the box below this one packed with brood.
THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON APRIL 25/14.
I performed the first full hive inspection of the year yesterday. I also reversed the brood boxes while I was at it. Next year I plan to reverse the boxes shortly after the bees start hauling in pollen from the crocuses (instead of waiting until the dandelions bloom). Whether from dandelions or crocuses, if the bees bring in pollen at a steady pace for about a week, that’s my cue to reverse the brood boxes. Had I reversed them a few weeks ago, I might have been able to avoid the disgusting mess of scraping off drone comb between the frames of the top and bottom boxes. I could have avoided splitting up the brood nest too. Check out Honey Bee Suite for more info on reversing boxes.
THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2012.
I have no great love for hive top feeders of any kind. So today I placed an otherwise useless insert feeder a fair distance from the hives, filled it half way with syrup and wood chips and let the bees go to it.
I know there are many arguments against this kind of free for all feeding. Too bad.
Read on . . . »
Dry sugar feeding. Bees clustering extra high again. Possibly some dead drone pupae.
The bees were gathering pollen at a steady pace for a couple weeks in April. But then the weather turned into cold, wet snow and the forecast ain’t the greatest. Always the paranoid beekeeper, I decided to sprinkle some dry sugar around the inner cover holes today just in case the bees were running low on honey. (I’ll probably give them some pollen patties once the weather warms up a bit.) This is what I found under the hood of Hive #3:
They bees are clustering above the inner cover hole, attached to the top cover as if they’re trying to build comb upwards. It’s the same colony that built some big time burr comb under the insulated inner cover a few weeks ago. I don’t know it if it means they’re just trying to stay warm or if the queen wants to expand the brood nest upwards. Either way, I think the safest bet to reduce the chances of swarming is to reverse the brood boxes ASAP. That’s our plan the next time the sun comes out.
Read on . . . »