This Is What I’m Doing This Weekend

Two Supers Full Of Honey

Yesterday, I took two shallow supers full of honey off of the original hive.  It went fairly smoothly. (Despite being Friday, the 13th!)

I was surprised to have so much honey in the middle of July, especially since I had a fairly large harvest in the spring. But this is a huge hive, and we’ve had a strong nectar flow since April.

The hive was absolutely packed to the rafters with brood and honey.  This extraction gave me the opportunity to provide more room and to get my supers straightened out.

I’m sure I had a reason to do it at the time, but my supers were in crazy order. I had a deep on the bottom, then a medium, then two shallows and then a deep on the very top!

The bottom deep was full of brood and the medium was full of brood and honey.  I took the medium out to make the split. It was perfect for that purpose!

The next two shallow supers were completely full of honey. No brood at all. (I don’t use a Queen excluder.) I took those boxes off to extract.

The top deep was full of brood and honey! How did the bees know to skip the shallow supers?  Who knows??

Anyway, I put the second deep on top of the first one and then put an empty medium on top of that. After I finish the extraction, I’ll add another two shallow supers on top of those.  This order makes a lot more sense!!

My spring honey was dark. It looked a lot like maple syrup.  This honey is light gold, almost white. It is ambrosial!

Well, I’ve got a lot of sticky work ahead of me. More later!

Things To Do In The Hives In June

Colonies will be boiling with bees this month! The Queen’s rate of egg laying may drop a bit.

Inspect the hive weekly to make sure the bees are healthy and the Queen is present. Make sure the bees have plenty of room for brood and honey. Add honey supers sooner rather than later.

Keep up swarm inspections.

My Garden Hive – Third Inspection

The Garden Hive

It’s been three weeks since I hived my Italian bees. I was a bit concerned after my last inspection since I didn’t see any capped brood, and there were some queen cups at the top of the frames. Was Queen Maria Amalia laying eggs? Were my bees trying to replace her?

Queen Cups

I shouldn’t have worried. Today when I inspected the hive, there was an almost perfect brood pattern on four of the eight frames. There was also capped honey stores. The bees are coming along beautifully!

Capped Brood and Honey Stores

Next week I’ll remove the sugar syrup feeder, and my bees should have a good start on the summer!

What To Do In The Hives In March

Bees in March

This is the month when colonies can die of starvation. If the bees do not have enough stored honey, they may need supplementary feeding.

This is of particular concern this year because the winter has been unseasonably warm in many areas.

Usually semi-dormant in winter, the bees instead have been buzzing around, burning up calories and eating their way through the honey reserves in their hives that are supposed to last until spring.

Besides consuming more honey due to increased flying — a behavior called “frivolous foraging” — honeybee colonies also eat more as reproduction kicks into high gear earlier than usual. Female worker bees huddle around the queen bee, whose primary job is to lay eggs, and keep her at a comfortable and constant 93 degrees. Male drones prepare to mate.

Make sure your bees have plenty to eat as we move into spring.  Don’t assume that a lot of activity around the hive means everything is fine inside.

Replacing Old Comb – The Bailey Method And The Shook Swarm Technique

This information is taken from Information Sheets prepared by John Hauxwell, former Chair of the North London Beekeepers. Many thanks!

Bailey Method

All new/additional hive parts should be new and/or sterilized.

1. Remove all unoccupied peripheral brood combs, without disturbing the brood nest. Insert dummy boards tight to each side of the brood nest. (wax & any left over stores can be recovered)
2. Place on top of the old brood box, another brood box with new brood frames with fresh foundation (the same number as there are existing below) with dummy boards each side. The new frames must be exactly above the old ones.
3. Feed the bees with thick sugar syrup in a contact feeder until there is a nectar flow. This helps the bees to produce wax for comb building. (small quantities at a time to avoid too much syrup storage).
4. The bees should now start to expand their nest upwards into the new frames, and extra frames can be added to accommodate the expansion.
5. Once the queen is laying well in the upper box, separate the 2 brood boxes with a queen excluder, ensuring that the queen is in the upper box!
6. 21 days later, the worker brood will have hatched out from the original frames, so the old brood box & queen excluder can be removed. Put the new brood box on a new/clean floor. (it is not worth the while sterilizing the combs or trying to recover the wax)
7. Keep feeding if necessary.
8. Now revert to your normal beekeeping practices.

Merits:
a. new comb = healthy comb
b. mimics the natural wild colony process of new comb building
c. improved colony build up
d. good for the wax builders & can delay swarming
e. end product = a vigorous, healthy colony

The Shook Swarm Technique

A colony must be strong enough to withstand a Shook Swarm, i.e., at least six brood frames of bees and have a satisfactory laying queen. The colony must be able to draw out the foundation, and therefore the ideal months are from late April to June.
The beekeeper must have ready for use clean/sterilised equipment for a new hive. This is your opportunity to give the colony a clean hive to start the season, similar to the hiving of a natural swarm.

1. Move the colony a short distance from its original position.
2. Place a clean brood chamber with clean frames with foundation, with a clean floor and entrance block, on the original position. Use a queen excluder between the floor and chamber to prevent the queen from absconding. Find the queen, and cage her for safekeeping during this manipulation.
3. Remove approximately 3 central frames of foundation from the new hive.
4. Shake all bees from the original hive into the center (do this by lowering the frames, one at a time, into the gap and shaking all the bees into the depth of the chamber) and brush any remaining bees.
5. Put the old frames without bees into a bag for destruction later. In foundation replacement & swarming situations, it is a good idea to put 1 original frame of open brood into the new chamber.
6. When all old frames have been shaken into the new chamber, replace the 3 frames with foundation gently into place, then carefully release the queen into the brood chamber.
7. Feed the bees with sugar syrup until the foundation is at least 75% drawn out. If there is already honey in a super or good nectar flow, feeding may not be necessary, but be careful.

Exploring the Mysteries of the Langstroth Hive, Part IV. The Final Chapter!

Langstroth Hive

We are now at the Hive Body aka Brood Chamber.

Bee boxes come in six basic sizes:

Large aka “deeps” or “brood boxes” – comes in 2 widths – 10 frame and 8 frame.

Medium aka “Illinois” or “western” – comes in 2 widths – 10 frame and 8 frame.

Small aka “honey super” or “shallow” – comes in 2 widths – 10 frame and 8 frame.

Of course there are other sizes and varieties of boxes, e.g. “super shallows” and “section supers” like the one pictured in the diagram. But I’m sticking to the basics here.

Old School beekeepers use the Large 10 frame box as their Hive Body/Brood Chamber.  They usually stack another Large box on top of the first one as their colony grows in size.

There’s only one problem.  When a Large 10 frame box is full of brood and honey, it is HEAAAVVYY!!  I’m talking 90 pounds of heavy!

My first hive is totally Old School.  Two large boxes on the bottom, with two medium boxes on top of those used as honey supers.

Can I lift those bottom boxes? Sure, when I’m powered by adrenaline because I’m terrified all my bees are going to die if I don’t get the hive back together! Like those stories of people lifting cars…

I learned my lesson the hard way. My second hive is going to be made up entirely of Medium 8 frame boxes. I’ve heard them called “lady boxes.”  Sounds good to me!!

Next we arrive at the Queen Excluder, possibly the most controversial piece of equipment on the hive.  The point of an excluder is to keep the Queen from laying eggs in the honey supers, thus keeping baby bees out of the honey you harvest.  Most beekeepers I know regard them with disdain, including Bee Guru Michael Bush. I tried an excluder once, but never again. My worker bees hated it.  My advice? Toss it.

Next we come to the Inner Cover.  I understand that this is an essential part of the hive, but I forgot to put mine on last year and my bees are fine.  I recommend using one, however.

FINALLY, we arrive at the Outer or Telescoping Cover. A very essential part of the hive.  And now it comes in an attractive English Garden Style!

English Garden Hive Cover

I hope this series has unraveled some of the Mysteries of the Langstroth Hive.  Now on to some gardening topics!!

Some Creative Langstroth Hives!

Exploring the Mysteries of the Langstroth Hive, Part III

The Langstroth Hive

We’ve covered the Elevated Hive Stand and the Hive Stand.  That brings us to the Bottom Board.

The Bottom Board is an essential part of the hive.  It comes in two versions, standard and screened.  A screened bottom board improves ventilation and is helpful when monitoring pests.

The Entrance Cleat or Entrance Reducer.

This wooden doohickey limits access to the hive. It’s only used with new hives, in the wintertime, or if your hive is being robbed by other insects. I don’t use one.

The Mouse Guard.

It’s not on the diagram, but it’s essential in the winter if your hives aren’t on the roof. Well, maybe you need one on the roof,too.

It’s a handy metal device that prevents the Mouse Family from taking up residence in your hive. (It’s also the name of a popular Graphic Novel!)

Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard

Next comes the Slatted Rack. Oops, that’s not on the diagram either! Good thing it’s optional…

It is, like it sounds, a slatted rack. It goes above the bottom board. It’s supposed to help air circulation and improve brood pattern.  Some beekeepers swear by it. I have one, but I haven’t put it together yet…

Slatted Rack - Helps Air Circulation & Improves Brood Pattern

Okay, now we’re up to the Hive Body, and the discussion of box sizes. That gets really confusing. I’m going to save that for Exploring the Mysteries of the Langstroth Hive, Part IV.  The Final Chapter. 

Interesting Hive of the Day...

Ach du Lieber, It’s a Beehaus!

It’s plastic.  It’s colorful.  It’s British.  By God, it’s a Beehaus!

The Beehaus is touted as the answer to urban beekeeping. I have my reservations.  For one, it isn’t very pretty.  I’m all about beautiful bee hives.

It isn’t cheap.  It sells in the U.S. for $860, plus shipping and handling. You can build your own wooden hive for a fraction of that cost.

It doesn’t look like a good hive for people who own large dogs.  I can see  my giant golden retriever Bayard knocking it over with one hearty romp!

Notwithstanding, there are advantages.  Here’s some details from the Omlet website.  (I AM intrigued by their plastic chicken coops.  My neighbors would kill me though…..)

The Beehaus!

The beehaus is specially designed for keeping bees in your garden or rooftop. Developed to provide your bees with a safe, modern home in which to live it makes beekeeping straightforward and fun.

Photo of a Beekeeper lifting a super off the top of the Beehaus.The lid is quickly secured using an elasticated cord

Space for the Whole Colony

Modern bees need more space than they did in the past because queens have been bred to be more prolific egg layers. The beehaus uses deep National frames (14″x12″) that allow the whole colony to live in a single brood box. This simplifies inspecting your bees and is less disruptive to the bees compared to being housed in a double brood box system. Your bees will be calmer and easier to work with.

Two Hives in One

The brood box has two entrances – one at either end. There is enough space to accommodate 22 frames, which is double the number of frames in a traditional National hive. In spring when the queen is laying at her maximum rate your bees will be rapidly expanding in number. The extra space in the beehaus allows you to either a) expand the hive as a single colony or b) divide the hive in two and start a second colony. This is an effective method of managing your bees’ natural urge to swarm.

Protected Entrance

The entrance has a sheltered landing area that makes it easy for your bees to land and walk into the hive. The beehaus comes complete with a wasp guard which restricts the size of the entrance helping the bees to defend the hive against wasps. The wasp guard can be turned around and used to block the entrance if you are transporting your bees.

Triple Insulation

The beehaus has innovative triple pocket insulation to help keep your bees warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Bees need to maintain a stable 35degC in the brood. They control variations in temperature by vibrating their bodies to generate heat in the winter or if it gets too hot in the summer by using their wings as fans to circulate air.

Good Ventilation

The mesh floor ensures your bees have good air flow within the hive. It also allows debris and mites to fall out and this helps keep your bees healthy.

Light, Modular Honey Boxes

The beehaus comes with four supers for the bees to store honey. You place these on top of the brood frames in the spring when the bees start collecting nectar. The supers use a standard National super frame.

Comfortable Working Height

The beehaus is raised off the ground on sturdy legs. You don’t have to bend to lift heavy boxes as you do with traditional hives. During the spring and summer you will be checking the frames in the hive and supers weekly. Having the top of the hive at a convenient height and with space alongside to rest tools makes the job much easier.

The Italian Bee

Italian honey bees were brought to the U.S. in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer.

They are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.

The Italian Bee

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rearing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they are notorious kleptoparasites and frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neighboring colonies.

One of my beekeeping friends calls them the “racy Italian sports car” of bees.