Tag Archive | grow

Adding a Second Brood Chamber

May 26, 2013

Inspection 3

Our last inspection was a week prior and the bees were already showing signs of fast growth and crowding, but the frames weren’t drawn out enough to add the second box yet. Then the weather turned overcast, rainy and downright cold from Tuesday through Saturday, so with Sunday being my first chance to check on them, I anticipated they’d be ready to expand into a new brood box.

The day was finally sunny and in the 70s, with a mild breeze. It was late afternoon and the girls were mostly in for the night and not very active. I brought the empty brood boxes with me. I opened the hives one at a time and checked the frames starting from the outside in. I confess, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I just use my best instincts and do what I think is best. In this case, all frames were completely drawn out on both sides with comb, and I could see that eggs had been laid in the empty cells of the new frames. But only a corner of each side had actually been capped.

The center frames were very crowded and had empty cells, although I forgot to check those for eggs. Ugh, note to self, create a checklist for every inspection. Both hives were progressing in synch, but I did notice some small queen cells in the center frames of the green hive (1), and none in the yellow hive (2).

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At this point I figure if they have a notion to swarm, then they’re gonna swarm and there’s not much I can do about it. I’ve read lots of comments to leave them alone and just let the girls do their thing. Besides, I hate the idea of digging around and destroying their comb with the hive tool. So I decided not to remove the queen cells and left them there for the girls to either clean up or follow their planned path. I’ve read that although queen cells are a strong indication of swarming, sometimes the girls will make them then tear them down.

I added an empty box with clean frames to each hive. Again, I’ve read all kinds of methods about swapping frames around, adding drawn out frames to the top boxes, yada, yada, yada. Being new, I don’ have a bunch of extra frames with pre-made comb. I don’t know if it’s too soon, but I’m on travel this week and won’t get the chance to look at them again until Friday at the earliest. And if bad weather kicks in, it gets pushed even more. So I bit the bullet. They immediately started climbing up into the new frames, so I suspect they’ll begin building new comb straightaway. They’ve gotta be happy to have some elbow room. I just hope they don’t forget about the old frames.

I find myself in a constant state of wonder, trying to guess what they’re doing, whether they’re happy, will they try to leave, am I doing the right things. Then I walk up and watch them busily buzzing around the fronts of the hives and I know that at that moment they’re just fine. That’s the thing, beekeeping is about living in the moment, doing the best you can as you go, accepting whatever happens, learning from it and moving on. I’m learning to accept that, while at the same time continuing to build my knowledge base. I suppose if they were predictable, then this hobby wouldn’t be half as challenging or appealing. Another level of risk that we never anticipated.

Different Hive Personalities

May 22, 2013

Once we got the queen cell non-issue resolved, the weather turned hot and sticky and the bees became more active and more present on the fronts of their hives. Bees like to hang out front when it’s hot outside, much like we enjoy hanging out on the front porch when it’s hot and the house isn’t air conditioned. This is called bearding. They form a sizable cluster that can cover a large portion of the hive surface.  This would make most unknowing passerby’s nervous.

What made me nervous was the difference in activity between the hives. While the yellow hive has a small amount of clustering at the entrance, the green hive bearded half the hive from early morning through dusk.  I was still paranoid about the possibility of swarming, but I had checked the hives and they both appeared to be developing at the same rate and we’d only installed the nucs a week prior.

I posted the question to the Frederick County Beekeepers and sent them the photo below of both hives at 6:30 am.

6:30 AM photo shows a noticeable difference in hive activity.

6:30 AM photo shows a noticeable difference in hive activity.

Members were kind enough to send photos of their hives at the same time of morning, and they looked very similar to mine, with one hive appearing overcrowded and covered in bees, and the other showing no bearding at all.

One member said his hives have different habits and personalities. One likes to sleep in while the other wakes and collects outside in the early hours. One may be more sensitive to loud noises than the other. One may be easy going an unaffected by much of anything. One may be more active and easily irritated.  They’re all different.

Regardless, bearding is normal. Just a chance for the girls to escape the hot crowded hive and enjoy a bit of social time.

When to Add Another Brood Chamber

I also asked about when I should add another brood box since the bees seemed so crowded. The common answer was to wait until the last one or two frames are completely drawn out and capped before adding another box. That’s because bees like to work upward, so if you give them space to go up, then they will ignore the frames on the far sides and use every last bit of the space they’re given.

Association Dues are Paying Off?

I joined the Frederick County Beekeeping Association (FCBA) back when I took the class in January.  The cost is $10 per year and they hold monthly meetings that focus on all different bee topics.  I never attended a meeting and I don’t know any of the members.  For this reason, I hesitated sending questions to the group forum.  But I reached a point where I just needed some help and reassurance, so I bit the bullet and sent them an email.  The responses were incredibly nice, generous and informative.

It’s well known that if you throw out a question to 10 different beekeepers, you’ll likely get 10 different answers, and this was partially true.  It’s fascinating to hear the different practices and the reasons behind them.  But when the answers do coincide, there’s no question of what has to be done.  These people don’t know me from atom, but after several rounds of emails, I already feel like I’m part of the group and I’m eager to attend my first meeting as an official beekeeper.   These people love sharing their knowledge and responding to questions, and I’m more than happy to soak it all in.