Tag / bee hives

Beekeeping Bees Hive Maintainance

Spring in the Beehives: The Bees Have Emerged

Two days ago it was the first day of truly warmer weather.  We reached 55 degrees.  As I was heading out to my car this afternoon to run some errands, I noticed that my car was covered in bee poo, blobs of yellow dots and streaks adorned my car.  This was a good sign.  Knowing the bees were out and about, I decided to take a peek at the hives quickly before I left and I was shocked.

Hundreds of bees around the hives and Willow (back hive) has the beginnins of a bee beard outside the hive.

The buzzing was intense.  Loud.  There were hundreds of bees around the hives. The hive I call Willow had the beginnings of a bee beard on the outside of the lower deep.  Immediately, I had concerns about swarming.  Bearding can mean that the bees are feeling as if they have run out of space.  Knowing that Willow’s population was already through the roof from the last peek that I took, I called my mentor.  Luckily, he was in the area and he had extra equipment and supplies with him.

First we opened Willow.  My suspicions were correct.  Even this early in spring, the bees were feeling as if they had outgrown their space.  They immediately needed somewhere to go.  Over 80% of their candy board was consumed. We sprang into action.  We quickly did the spring maintenance   The hive temperament was good.  We didn’t even need the smoker.  We did not inspect this hive thoroughly to look for the queen.  With this many bees, we know that she is thriving somewhere inside the hive.  We added a third deep so that the bees would have extra space and not feel so cramped.  Not only will this help to prevent the swarm, but it can also help when it comes time to do a split. A split is when you make two hives from one. However, it is still too early to make the split in the season.  This will have to wait until May. Then I will have to make some big decisions on how I want to do the split.  I have a few important decisions that I will blog about soon.

The entrance after the cleaning and reversing the deep’s position.

Next we opened up Briar.  Only 15% or so of the candy board was consumed. The bees were strong in numbers but no where near that of Willow.  This hive we inspected.  There was still a good amount of stored honey, pollen and some fresh nectar was being brought into the hive.  A few bees were loaded down with assorted shades of yellow pollen.  We did not see the queen, but it did not mean she was not there.  We did not see any brood either, but she may not be laying yet.  It is still early in the season here on Cape Cod.  This hive is strong as well.  So it too will need to be split later this spring.

Dead bees and hive debris after the cleaning. One live worker bee (center) scavenges for anything valuable to the hive.

On both hives, we did a bit of spring maintenance.
Please keep in mind this is a bit early for where I live but these efforts were taken to prevent swarming:

  • reversed the order of the two bottom deeps to help prevent swarming
  • cleaned the IPM ( Integrated Pest Management) boards that I kept in all winter long to help insulate the hive
  • kept the candy boards in place.  Will start feeding sugar syrup to Willow in a couple of weeks. No need to feed Briar, as they have plenty winter stores (honey) left.
  • Cleaned the screened bottom boards
  • Scraped off excess propolis
  • Replaced older broken frames
  • Inspected both hives for the queen or signs of the queen
  • Added an extra deep to both hives that can be used later in May to make the splits.
So for now, all is well with both hives.  I am surprised that they have fared so well this winter in comparison to some of my fellow beekeepers.  My mentor tells me that my two hives are the strongest he has seen in two years after overwintering.  Wow!  He also thinks that I will be harvesting honey this summer.  I can’t wait.

It’s not pretty, but these borrowed deeps will help to make the splits in a few weeks.

Never trust used equipment. Be sure to always add new frames and foundation and torch the insides of the boxes-all the nooks and crannies- to prevent the transmission of diseases and pests.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Beekeeping Bees Hive Maintainance

Opening the Hives: At One Month

Bees working bits of burr comb removed from between the frames and placed at the entrance

Two weeks ago, my mentor from the local beekeeper’s association came over to visit my hives for the first time.  It was a great experience.  Both hives, Willow and Briar, were growing as expected.  There was beautiful brood, capped honey, pollen and lots of bees.  We even saw the queen in Willow.  It was so nice to hear from my mentor, who has been raising bees since 1989, that everything looked great.  We added on the second deep super to Briar so that it would now match Willow. I had added the second deep super to Willow four days prior.  For a diagram with parts of the hive click here.

Today marked two weeks since I had entered the hives. It was time to inspect them again and to see how they were doing in building out the 10 frames within the new second deeps. Over the past few days it has been sunny, beautiful and very hot. The weather has been optimal for bee viewing. Last night, the kids and I built out the smaller frames for the honey supers, just in case we needed them. I went into the hives at 10 am.

Bees in the Northeast need approximately 60-80 pounds of honey to survive through the Winter. This is roughly equivalent to two full deep supers. Often new beekeepers in the first year, strive to get their bees to completely build out two deeps. It is a great deal of work for the bees. Not only do they have to make beeswax to draw out the foundation on twenty frames, but the queen has to lay lots of eggs, the bees need to collect nectar and pollen, and create honey stores.

Willow was first. Willow has had two deeps on since June 5th. As I removed the outer cover, I found the feeder empty. Bees were still surrounding the opening but it was light as a feather. I removed it and placed it on the ground. Next, I removed the inner cover. The bees were very quiet. They hardly seemed to notice me. In fact, I could barely hear them buzzing. I had never heard the hive this calm or quiet before. I worked methodically and slowly to avoid causing any unnecessary vibrations or jostling that upsets the bees. I had soon discovered that the bees had been very busy! As I inspected each frame I found that eight were fully built out with comb in the second deep super. There were plenty of bees-both workers and drones. Five frames were full of brood and there was capped honey, pollen and nectar in the cells too. I found the queen on the third frame. There she was in the center of the frame and capped brood. As I inspected each frame, I also found it necessary to remove burr comb. Burr comb is comb that does not belong where the bees place it. In this case, they “bridged” the small gaps between the frames in the upper and lower deep with beeswax bridges. With the hive tool, I methodically scraped off this comb and placed it on the bottom board near the hive entrance. The bees will clean this comb of everything useful (see photo above). Within seconds, the comb was covered with worker bees. I finished peeking inside this upper deep and decided to forgo the lower one. Everything was as it should be. In fact, it was time for me to add a honey super to this hive.

Honey supers are about half the height of a regular deep. It is shallower. When full it can hold up to 100 pounds of honey. I decided to forgo the queen excluder. It is an item of huge debate in the beekeeping world. It is not recommended for first year beekeepers by our association. The idea behind the queen excluder is to prevent the queen from going up into the honey super and laying eggs. Worker bees can fit through just fine enabling them to build out the foundations. Without a queen excluder, it is possible that the queen can go up into the honey super and lay eggs. However, the bees will have plenty of work drawing out the new ten frames that are inside the honey super. They may only have enough time this season to draw out the comb or they may fill this super with honey and I might even have to add another! If the queen does lay eggs in the honey super, waiting until Fall to harvest honey should ensure that no more hatching eggs are laid in the honey super. Time will tell.  Once the honey super went onto Willow, it was time to stop feeding them. I removed the empty feeder, added the honey super, replaced the inner cover and the outer cover. The bees hardly knew that I was there. Next it was Briar’s turn.

From the beginning, Briar was my gang buster hive. I placed the second deep on this hive on June 9th, four days later than Willow as it was a tad bit slower. I was very pleased when I opened this hive. In the same fashion as Willow, I entered the hive. The feeder was also empty. I inspected each frame in the upper deep. Six out of the ten frames were built out. Three were covered in brood. There was pollen, capped honey, nectar and plenty of bees. I never did see the queen. This hive too, like Willow was incredibly docile today and I decided that I had seen enough evidence of a thriving hive with a laying queen. Briar did not receive a second deep as I wanted to see at least seven frames completely built out with comb.

So in a week or so, I will open Briar back up and recheck the progress of the bees. This hive might just get a honey super too. It is still early in the season here on Cape Cod. My fingers are crossed that I just might get some honey. I talked to my mentor today. He was surprised with the bees’ progress. From what he tells me, sometimes new hives are like this. He said the real test will come to see if they survive the Winter.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

This post is linked up to Deborah Jean’s Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop.

Beekeeping Bees Chickens

The Birds and the Bees

One of the biggest questions that I had prior starting out on my honey bee keeping journey had to do with how the chickens and the bees will coexist in my yard.  I was nervous.  I knew nothing about keeping bees, yet I knew a lot about keeping chickens.  I wondered to myself.  Will the bees sting the chickens?  Will the chickens bother the beehives?  What will happen if the bees swarm?  Can my chickens still free range in the yard with beehives present? Do chickens and bees get along?