Tag Archive | Apiary

Growing Up and Out

May 4, 2014 (Sunday)

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With the addition of Baby Nuc and the continuing growth of Blue Hive,  we decided to move the raised bed and make room for two more hives.  I even went out and purchased two new hives, just to be prepared.  It’s always good to have extra hive bodies and frames around, especially during swarm season.

We lined the ground with landscape fabric (while dodging some testy bees) and leveled it out with pea gravel.  Poor Baby Nuc was moved a few times, and we’d come back to their spot to find bees flying around wondering what happened to their hive.  Needless to say, we worked fast and safely returned Baby Nuc back to its original location, and the aimless foragers landed on the front porch, happy to have found their missing home.

Baby Nuc  Wants a Queen

As we prepped the new area, I peeked in Baby Nuc to see if they’d created any queen cells yet.  Baby Nuc was created with some nice frames of brood and larvae from Blue Hive.  But I wasn’t sure whether I’d provided the eggs they needed to produce a new queen.

I was told that after bees are separated from their hive and placed into a new queenless colony, it takes 24 hours for their queen’s smell to dissipate.  When that happens, they acknowledge that they are queenless and begin working immediately to create new queen from the most newly laid eggs.

During my inspection, I saw drone cells and burr comb, and at the bottom of one frame was a small and undistinguishable queen cell.  Not what I was hoping for.  Small is not an issue.  Even small queen cells can yield good queens, but I wasn’t even sure it WAS a queen cell.

I’d continue watching them and if they hadn’t created a queen cell in another week, then I’d simply give them another frame of brood, larvae and eggs from Blue Hive.  That is, unless Blue Hive had a queen cell to spare.  Then I could transfer the queen cell to Baby Nuc and all they’d have to do is feed it and wait for the virgin queen to hatch, mate and start laying eggs.  This process usually takes about 4 weeks.

Blue Hive Ready to Swarm

The good news  – Not only is Blue Hive incredibly active, laying up a storm and packing in tons of bees, they’re also laying lots of drones and (drum roll please)…queen cells!  Score!  Free Texas queen offspring for Baby Nuc.  I shook the bees off and happily placed the frame into Baby Nuc.  The cell was close to 1-1/2 inches long.  Perfect!

The bad news – Blue Hive has swarm written all over it.  When purchasing my hives, I met up a bee club member who is a professional beekeeper.  He said that when honey meets brood, they’re preparing to swarm.  All of the above mentioned signs, combined with the fact that Blue Hive has outgrown its space and the brood is definitely meeting the honey, tell me that these girls are ready to swarm.  My plan is to give them a proper split into one of the new hives.  But first (as suggested by my beekeeper friend), I placed a full box of drawn comb beneath the top honey box, separating it from the brood box.  This gives them room to expand and will hopefully prevent swarming for the time being, at least until I can get a good split from them.

Yellow Hive Business as Usual

Yellow Hive looks great.   I gave them a new box last week, so they’re working on filling that out.  They’re laying, feeding, and doing all the things that a healthy and active new colony should be doing.

Green Hive Picking Up and Filling Out

I’m happy that Green Hive has perked up and is doing well.  Like Yellow Hive, they’re laying, they’re active, and they’ve filled in their two boxes, so I gave them a third box of drawn comb to grow into then I closed them up.

Yay for Honey!

I’m feeling good at the moment and am especially excited at the prospect of adding more hives to the apiary.   Even more exciting, the supers will go on this weekend and we’ll start collecting honey.  Yay for honey!  It’s good to have bees.

 

Pre-Bee Planning and Decision-Making

Jan-March 2013

Before the bees arrived, we had some key decisions to make.

The Hives

Its recommended that new beekeepers start with at least 2 hives. That way, if one swarms or dies for some reason, you have a backup.

So, the next decision was what types of hive bodies to use? A bit of research confirmed my original thought. I chose 8 frame mediums simply because they be easier to handle. Brood and honey-filled frames can weigh about 5-7 pounds each. Multiply that by 8, then consider that up to 6 of these boxes will be piled upwards… oh yeah, my back will thank me.

It’s also a good idea to pick one size and stick with it. That way all of my hive bodies will be interchangeable.

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Picking Out Colors

I knew I wanted bright and fun. They also had to be different so the bees could differentiate their own hives. I chose golden yellow and lime green to add a splash of the warm tropics to our backyard. It worked! I love our bright colorful hives, and the bees seem to like them too.

The Apiary Site

I selected a site facing east so it gets the morning sun, is not too close to the neighbors, is adjacent to the garden, is out of dog range, and is shielded between the greenhouse and some tall shrubs.

We prepped the ground with landscaping fabric, lined the perimeter with railroad ties, and filled the space in with small landscaping pebbles. The hives – painted bright green (Hive 1) and yellow (Hive 2) – set about 2 feet up on cinder blocks.

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Packages or Nucs

This was a no brainer. We chose nucs simply because we were starting from scratch. Now that we have filled in frames, I’ll probably purchase packages in the future.

Feeders

Bucket feeders are simple to use, inexpensive, safer for the bees, and closed off to ants, pests and robbers. The only downfall is that an extra box is needed for cover.

I have yet to hear any good words about boardman feeders, and the open feeders just seem too….well…open.

Water Source

For our water source, we purchased a bird bath that automatically fills from a 2 liter soda bottle that screws into the center. As the water level lowers, more water is released from the bottle. So we just refill the bottle as needed. The water source went out before the bees arrived so that it would be the first source of water they saw. It worked. They drink from it regularly. Fun to watch their little bodies pump up and down when they drink.

To provide resting spots for the bees, I filled the bottom of the bird bath with colorful glass nuggets, like you find in flower vases and aquariums. I love the way glass looks outdoors, especially in the water, and it works quite well for the bees.

Equipment

I took the easy route when it comes to equipment. I ordered a kit that included my first complete hive, hive tool, brush, smoker, boardman feeder (which I’ll be happy to give away if anybody wants one), a beekeeping book, and a great Brushy Mountain Intro to Beekeeping video. Definitely the way to go!

So far our upfront decisions are working out well. But everyone is different, and depending on your bee situation, you may have made different choices. I’d love to hear what choices you made for your bees.

Leave a comment and share how and why you may have done things differently (or the same) and how those choices are working out for you!