March 27, 2016 (Sunday)
Spring is here! The bees are enjoying consistent spring temps, and even better, lots and lots of spring flowers. They’re bringing in oodles of nectar and pollen so they can build their numbers and start producing honey. I’m ready too. The windbreakers are down; the lettuce, arugula and peas are planted; and even the fig tree has exploded with new growth. Lots of work to do in the garden over the next few weeks. Yesterday the hubster mowed the lawn, and I got in and worked the bees. Happy, happy!
I lost Blue and Green hives early on (yep, blame the beekeeper), so I’ve been working through the winter to keep Purple, Mint and Yellow hives going.
- Purple hive has the mite-resistant PA queen, and she’s doing fantastic – good temperament and tons of bees. We’ll try to get a split or two from Purple hive to keep this stock going.
- Mint hive but has tons and tons of bees. Bred from Texas queens, these girls are feisty. I predict they’ll bee early swarmers this year.
- Yellow hive looks healthy and, although they don’t have as many bees as they other two hives, they’re building up quickly.
The weather has been wishy washy over the past few weeks, so up until now I’ve had the girls on candy. They say to start feeding syrup when the bees are flying. However, I didn’t want to trick them into thinking there was an early nectar flow, only to find there was no food to be found outside the hives. Keeping them well fed until they can go out and get their own food is imperative during the transition from cold to warm. It’s a tricky time when bees often starve if beekeepers don’t stay on top of refilling their food supply.
I also pulled Green hive apart and brought it in for maintenance. Green and Blue hives will get a good cleaning and prep so they’re ready to take on more bees once I can split the other hives.
Swapping Boxes for Spring
Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny spring day. The perfect opportunity to break into the hives, clean them up and swap the boxes around. The queen works her way up the hive, and by the end of winter, all the bees are as far up as they can go. There’s no room left for the queen to continue laying above the top box, and if there’s no room left for the queen to lay, then that triggers swarming. We manage that by swapping the boxes and moving the queen to the bottom of the hive so she has room to move up. As a result, the brood boxes are located at the bottom of the hives from spring through fall, and the honey is located at the top. The trick is to keep adding space between the brood and the honey in attempt to prevent swarming. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, this working full time stuff really gets in the way of my beekeeping. It means that I have to work the bees on my schedule, not their schedule. And let me tell you, their schedule is way ahead of my schedule! The proof is in the photo – here what I found when I opened Mint and Purple hives…
Yep, they filled in all the space between the frames and the inner cover. Buggers. Luckily most of it was empty comb, but there was also brood, which I hated to disturb and dispose of. It also meant that the queen could bee among that mess. So I carefully shook the girls down onto the frames (they were not happy about that) and cleaned the wax off the inner cover so I could remove the extra space.
I’m thinking candle making might be fun. Seriously, there’s only so much chapstick a person can make!
As for cleaning, they did a heck of a job cleaning house. I removed old food and comb from the tops of the frames, but the bottom boards were already emptied of dead bees and winter debris. So my job was easy.
Aside from rendering wax, boxes and frames will bee pulled out of storage to air out, and old frames will bee cleaned with new foundation (wax sheets) added.
Reconfiguring the boxes is disturbing enough for one weekend. I’ll wait til next weekend to configure the individual boxes, making sure they have plenty of honey and adding blank frames to the brood boxes so the queen has even more space to lay and so the girls have room to build comb. They’re programmed to build comb this time of year, and new comb is a good thing.
The garden also needs a good weeding so the strawberries and mint can have their space. Catnip started taking over weeks ago. Asparagus will come up soon.
So much to do, and so little time.
Happy spring everyone!