2023 has brought a fresh start to the sister hives at Whiting, including a new location with more daylight. We are happy with the location, and this year decided to invest in building a hive stand and improve the aesthetics of the location. This week, we relied on our favorite carpenter, jack-of-all-trades Tyler, to help construct a stable and attractive bench for the hives to set upon. Using 6 cinder blocks placed below the structure, 2 4x4s for rails, and 2x4s for cross pieces, we have a stable and strong deck for bottom boards to rest on.
We mustered up our horticultural skills and edged a rectangular area, removing sod and replacing with woodchips to improve the look of the hives and make mowing and weed whipping easier. Setting the cinder blocks and decking upon the chips, we worked to slant the structure forward, ensuring water would run out of the hives in an appropriate manner.
The end product is a hive stand that is currently holding 3 hives, and could potentially host a fourth! Three hives you ask? Yes! We want to give a special thank you to former students Kathy and Eric, who have been successful students. Their hives are bustling, and in risk of swarming. In appreciation for our class and mentorship, Kathy and Eric shared with us 6 frames of brood to split into a new hive that we can utilize. The six frames had plenty of capped brood, working bees, and resources. Unfortunately, there were not many young larvae or eggs for the bees to use to build emergency cells to raise a new queen. The laying pattern on the frames provided looked awesome! Wall-to-wall brood has us anticipating a huge work force right around the corner. We chose to use these 6-frames, along with 4-frames of honey we had stored, add a frame of young larvae and eggs from our hives and let the bees work to raise a queen! We will check next Tuesday to see that they are progressing, otherwise we are happy to purchase a queen from a reputable local beekeeper to increase our local Michigan-mutt genetics.
Also, notice in the photo the outside two hives are progressing. Both are bringing in so much nectar we felt they needed more room. But remember, dear reader, we are trying a new recipe this year! For the two hives we started earlier we are choosing to utilize one story brood and then immediately super. We are using a queen excluder as before, so both of these hives were ready for this additional space as Michigan spring and an abundance of blooms is upon us.
The bees we got from a package look great. The queen has gone right to work and they seem to be going through the growth we hope for in a successful spring. Many field bees are working and larvae are developing. In fact, we felt this hive was so strong that we choose it to be a donor colony for a frame of brood and eggs we needed to springboard the newly acquired split forward.
Unfortunately, the second hive, the one we got as a nuc, is not doing as well. It wasn’t a strong hive to start with, and the cold end of April into early May had the queen off to a late start laying. She did have an opportunity to lay in mid-May, which seemed to go well… but inspecting these frames shows shoddy brood pattern and quite a few dead larvae. This is alarming to us, and something we look for upon regular inspection. A possible theory is the cold weather and small-ish number of adults present to keep brood warm is taking its toll on the hive. This is definitely something we will monitor closely and keep our fingers crossed that this is something the hive will grow past as the temperatures warm and nectar flow increases.