I am sure you all have times when it is so busy, that you don’t even know where to start. That is how I have felt with starting the season with a variety of hive situations.
It is HARD to keep track of all of the details:
- If the hive didn’t make it, do we purchase bees or repopulate with splits from somewhere else?
- Do the bees have enough room?
- When do/did we super the hive?
- Do we need to work to prevent swarming?
- If we make a split, do we take the queen to simulate a swarm OR leave her in the mother hive?
- Do we buy a new queen or encourage the hive to make one?
- When do I need to start treating for mites and what to use?
- How long has that mite treatment been on?
- Is that new queen ready or is it too soon to check?
SO MUCH…don’t get me wrong, it is VERY exciting. Between all of the apiaries we help manage, there are about 16 hives right now (PLUS) 3 NUCs in another location growing for introduction into new hives. This means that NOTES are imperative to keeping things straight. Remember, for most people this is a hobby and on top of possibly a full-time job, kiddos and any number of other commitments, it is easy to forget where you were in the bee-rearing process in EACH hive. Notes will help you not have to do ‘from scratch’ evaluations and you can have an idea of what SHOULD be happening before you even don your veil and light your smoker. When I make notes, each hive has its own nickname (based on their character usually), I record the situation(s) I find, and any adjustments I make (treatments, supers, etc.). Of course, it is ALWAYS exciting if you find the queen and good to note what she looks like for future reference – they don’t all look the same. Any concerns should also be recorded or ideas for what might be next steps.
A status update: Dow Gardens Hives
When we last checked in, we had rescued a queen that had only a handful of bees and put them into a nuc box with more bees and brood to encourage expansion for future upgrading into a 10-frame hive. We were about to install a package with our beginning beekeeping group into a second hive and we were trying to decide whether to expand back to 3 hives or not.
Fast forward to today and we now have 4 hives at Dow Gardens!
- We have the ‘new’ package still drawing out new equipment in their first story but being productive.
- We created two splits (of varying sizes) from my personal hives which contain the original queens now in hives at Whiting Forest. These are taking off, growth-wise. One is a single story with a super and one is a two story brood box.
- Then we have the overwintered queen. The bees and brood we gave her didn’t last long and the population dropped again. We have now added her to a nuc of bees and brood from another hive. Upon last inspection there really wasn’t much brood to speak of. She is not laying well at all so we will need to requeen this hive. It is less expensive than purchasing a package or nuc and they should really get going soon.
Finally, I would not BEE doing my job if I didn’t mention that we are well into swarm season. By some skill and some luck, we have been able to (so far) avoid the swarming of any of our hives. The ones most at risk are those that overwintered and have an old queen. Swarming is a natural way that a hive (superorganism) reproduces. That doesn’t mean that we should just ignore the signs and let them swarm. Your neighbor’s house or shed are NOT ideal places for the swarming colony to decide to take up residence AND these bees will do better with a beekeeper to care for them. According to Meghan Milbrath at MSU, more than 90% of swarms will not survive without beekeeper intervention. It isn’t responsible beekeeper-ship to let the bees swarm and lose the care of the beekeeper. In addition, if done right, the number of hives in your apiary can grow or you can sell/give the excess bees to other local beekeepers. Elly caught a swarm last week. Took a while to decide it definitely was NOT one of our colonies. The bees are now in a nuc box and busy drawing comb in their new space. We are awaiting her majesty to begin laying and will do a more thorough inspection, test for mites and transfer to a bigger home when needed.