Notes on a hive body

Sublime: So Beautiful It’s Terrifying

 

Notes on a hive body

Yesterday was awesome! The weather got so nice that I could inspect all the bees in my care.

All the living hives are doing well. All the queens are laying, all the hives have stores and brood…which means they soon should be bursting at the seams.

One hive in particular KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF. It’s the hive that lives at Simon and Patti’s place…one of the Zia Queen Bee hives. Simon named it the Queen Elizabeth hive. Probably because he’s from England.

So, the QE hive was going GANGBUSTERS. Bees are everywhere. Tons of brood on almost every frame. Drone brood, too. There were so many bees that it felt sublime…it was so beautiful that it frightened me a bit!

I’m sure this hive felt so squeezed for space that they’re planning a swarm…none of the other hives I saw have any drone brood. In other words, this hive is preparing to make a new queen…but they’ll need some drones around to mate with her, so they’re preparing the drone brood first.

I doubled their space and opened the brood nest. Both of which should make them feel as if they have more room.

 

A Beeyard Deal

When I got home from work yesterday, I lit the smoker, changed my clothes, and headed out to the beeyard. (I say “beeyard,” but it’s not really a separate yard, it’s simply the space where I keep the bees at the edge of the wood behind our house. I just like to say “beeyard.”) I removed the bottom 10-frame deep box because it’s a ghost town in there. The bees had not yet moved into it. There were maybe a couple of cells of stored pollen in the entire box, no eggs, no other activity, so off it went.

Then, I placed an 8-frame medium box on top of my apiary’s last remaining 10-frame deep…the one that houses my awesomely surviving Amazons and their wonderfully gorgeous queen. I replaced the top cover, and that was that. No more disturbance.

Speaking of beeyards…I think I’ve lined up an 80-acre place within a 30-minute drive of my house where I can keep a lot of bees. My friend, Michael, who is building a home on a part of the acreage, has agreed to let me keep bees there; in exchange I’ll teach him what I know about beekeeping. I’ll give him his own hives to work. So, that’s totally cool, isn’t it? If I collect any swarms or if any of my future cut-out attempts succeed, those bees will go to Michael’s place.

Yesterday, too, I ordered veils, hive tools, a smoker, and a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping for each of my bee stewards. They don’t know about their bee-steward package yet, and I think they’ll like it.

I’m thinking of naming my future honey “Amazon Honey” and my own personal future queens “Amazon Queens.”  Perfect.

 

Johnny and the big smoker

And Who Wouldn't Want to See the Bees?!

On April 27, 2009, I captured the swarm that I now call the Amazons, and it’s mid April again right now….which means I think it’s time to set out the four swarm bait boxes I’ve built in hopes of capturing a few swarms.

I’m not entirely sure where to hang those things. I know I’ll put one on a tree in my own beeyard—near the Amazons because they swarmed a few times last year and landed right there in front of my eyes…right in front of my eyes, but 40 or 50 feet up in the tree…too high for me to reach. It’s a killer to watch your own bees hanging in your own yard like that knowing they’re off to find a new home.

You know, Reader, on Sunday afternoon as I set out to inspect the Amazons with Hannah, a soon-to-be beekeeper, my neighbor John appeared. He saw us getting our gear together, and he wanted to see the bees. He was in shorts, T-shirt, and Chaco sandals. We suited him up. Then Katie, John’s wife called out to say that she was leaving the house and asked if John would watch Johnny, their 5-year old son. So, we suited Johnny up, too, and we all went out to visit the bees.

But in all the commotion, I lost sight of my plans for the inspection, and though we saw many wonderful goings on in the hive, I forgot to do what I set out to do: remove the bottom hive box (because nothing’s happening in there, and it’s one of two remaining 10-frame deep boxes still in operation and I’m eager to get rid of it); and add an 8-frame medium box to the top of the hive for expansion.

Today’s temperatures should reach the mid-60s, and it’s supposed to be sunny, so I plan to quickly do those two things this afternoon.

20110413-055919.jpg
Johnny and the big smoker
20110413-055934.jpg
John, Johnny, and Hannah inspect the Amazons

Spring Hive Cleaning

After bee school and before dinner at Lavomatic, I did some work with the bees. The weather was gorgeous, and it was the first time since fall that I could spend some time in the colony without disturbing things. So, I smoked the bees and then dug around in the brood boxes and examined 80% of the frames.

This is what I found:

  1. There was far less honey stored than I thought. Spring came just in time.
  2. The bottom box was a ghost town…no bees and no honey. Several of the frames had a grayish-colored mold on the comb.
  3. The bees had completely eaten the foundation from a couple of the frames.
  4. All the bees have moved up into the top box. This is the winter pattern…the cluster starts in the bottom brood box and it eats its way upward as the winter progresses.
  5. They have begun to store more pollen and raise brood in the top box.
  6. You know, I completely forgot to take pictures. That would probably help you see what I’m talking about…but once I get involved out there, I forget about documenting anything. I’ll try to remember next time.

This is what I did:

  1. I cleaned up the moldy frames. I cleaned the extra lumps of comb from the frames, too.
  2. I unstacked both brood boxes and removed the bottom board (which was loaded with winter debris…the amount of debris surprised me).
  3. I replaced the old-fashioned bottom board with a new screen-bottom board (this improves ventilation, and it gives me a way to check for mites as the season progresses).
  4. I reversed the brood frames as I restacked them.
  5. The box with all the bees went on the bottom, and the ghost-town box went on top. Bees work their way upward, so now they know there’s room above them and won’t decide to swarm (when they sense they’re out of room, they develop a new queen and swarm).
  6. I removed the queen excluder and the honey super I put on there a few days ago (I added that super to give the bees room so they wouldn’t swarm. But reversing the brood boxes gives me the same benefit while also assuring the bees first fill the two brood boxes with honey for themselves. Always insure the bees survival before harvesting the honey).
  7. I put a few lumps of bee candy on the inner cover. Though things are bustling, there’s still not enough pollen to keep the engine going. So, I’m supplementing.
  8. Today I’ll feed them concentrated sugar water in an entrance feeder…2:1 sugar to water. Moisture is a problem in hives at this time of year (and based on the mold I saw, we’ve got a moisture issue), so we want less water and more sugar.