Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Getting My Bees Ready To Winter

Busy as a bee
This time of year, I see a lot of discussion about candy boards, sugar bricks, quilt boxes and wrapping hives. I also see a lot of questions along the lines of "When should I start getting my hive ready for winter?"

For my location, the answer is both "You're too late" and "You're too early"

For me winter prep starts back in mid July. That's when I evaluate my hives, combine the stragglers and check to see who needs varroa mite treatment. In NW Ohio, mite treatment needs to be completed by August 1st in order to have couple of rounds of healthy brood for winter bees.

Towards the end of August, when the goldenrod peters out, I make sure everyone is up to their winter weight. That gives me a little buffer in case I need to feed the odd hive. The syrup is 2:1 (sugar:water) in order not to simulate brood rearing.

Meanwhile, the weather is doing most of the prep work - the shorter days, lack of nectar and cooler nights signal the bees to reduce the size of the brood nest, consolidate the cluster and propolize every nook and cranny.

There is not much that I do - I stack the empty supers in the barn, I make sure all the equipment is put away and organized. I bottle honey and make creamed honey.

Finally, in November, when flight days are far and few between, I'll put on the candy boards and some pieces of pink foam board on top. Then I wait till Spring.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Few Good Queen Bees

You may be wondering how my May queens turned out.

Here are a few pictures of those queens in their mating nucs just as they started laying. I ended up with 8 queen bees. One of them did not mate properly and turned into a drone layer.

The rest of them successfully built up their colonies to 2 deeps. They are ready to pass their toughest test yet- overwintering in NW Ohio.

Queen Bee #2
Queen Bee #3
Queen Bee #4
Queen Bee #7

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Queen Cells Are Capped And Ready to Go

Capped Queen Cells
The queen cells are progressing nicely and got capped on Friday 5/27. Today, they are getting moved to the mating nucs. I made up the nucs yesterday, so they can be queenless for 24 hours and have better cell acceptance.

In couple of weeks, I should be able to see the laying pattern of the new queens. Fingers crossed :D
The Queen Cells Are Getting Drawn Out

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: Starting Queen Cells With the Cut Cell Method

Putting together the cell starter
Queen cells candidates
Cell bar ready to go
The hives are building up nicely despite the chilly nights and constant rain. Most of the hives are filling out their first super. No signs of swarming so far except for one hive (there is always that one hive).

We're about 3 weeks from the flow here. I like to do a cut-down split right before the flow. That way, I can increase my hive count without sacrificing production. I like to do raise my own queens for going into winter, so now is a good time to start my queen cells.

Since I only need a small batch, I am using the cut cell method with a small variation - while doing my inspections, I noticed a freshly laid comb from the queen I want to propagate from. So, I just needed to set up the cell bar and the cell starter.

I was lucky and spotted the queen on the first frame I shook into the cell starter. With the queen located, setting up the cell finisher is going to be a breeze. And so it begins :D

Monday, April 25, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: More Equalizing and Getting Ready for Splits

Bees are boiling over the sides while equalizing the brood
The queen bee, doing her best to populate the brood nest
As I mentioned last week, there are many ways to make sure that your honey bee hives are of the same strength. The easiest way is to switch the place of a weak hive with that of a strong one. Another technique is to equalize brood.

This weekend, I equalized brood. My goal was twofold:

  • I wanted to make sure that all the hives will have similarly sized population of foragers for the honey flow. 
  • I wanted to use the "extra" frames of brood for my splits this coming Wednesday.

To make sure that I have adequate workforce to make the best of the honey flow, I would like to see 6 frames of brood in each hive. Since I kept equalizing the foragers in the prior weeks, all my hives had their 6 frames of brood. In fact, six of them had anywhere from 2-4 extra brood frames. Perfect for my splits.

One of the most time consuming parts in making a split is making sure I don't transfer the queen by accident. I kept my eye out for her when rearranging the brood frames and got extremely lucky - I was able to spot her in every hive. A quick shake is all it took to make sure she's in the bottom brood chamber and under the queen excluder. The extra brood frames went on top of the excluder, so all I have to do on Wednesday is to grab the top brood box, put it on its own bottom board and place the new queen.

Monday, April 18, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: Equalizing

Quick expansion into the second brood box already
More brood
Of course, we have to have a Queen picture
Overwintered hives are a force to consider in the Spring. They build up fast and furious. Despite a week of snow and freezing temperatures that caught them in the middle of their Spring build-up, they already have anywhere from 4-6 frames of brood in the second brood box and the bottom brood box is packed. Drones are already emerging.

As a beekeeper, my job is to pace them until our main flow arrives in mid June. Since it is early, I still equalize by switching the places of the strongest and weakest hives. In this way, the foragers from the stronger hive pad out the population of the weakest. The goal is to have all the hives as even as possible, so the manipulations can be done at the same time. Of course, a good record keeping system is a must - you don't want to propagate a hive that is lagging behind.

Next week, I will equalize the brood frames between the hives. It takes 42 days to raise a forager. The brood that is raised now is going to be collecting the honey harvest.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: Spring Cleanup

It is a wonderful feeling to pop off the covers
and find a strong honey bee hive

Hives are strong and ready to go.
Strong hives in early Spring are both a delightful surprise and an incredible challenge. You have the promise of a wonderful honey crop, provided you can keep the bees in their boxes.

Every Spring, I am reminded how close to the edge honey bees overwinter. At the start of the Maple flow, the honey bee cluster is usually pushing at the inner lid. I like to check their status at the first break in the weather.

Last year's May splits and packages had around 4 honey frames left each. There was one exception - one hive had a full second brood box. Of course, I checkerboarded that one. I am also going to keep it in mind as a possible candidate for queen breeder.

The splits that I made in July had at most 1 frame of honey left and were making the best of the candy boards that I put on in the Fall.

I reversed the boxes on the rest of them, made sure each hive had at least 2 capped honey frames and plenty of candy board left and added fresh patties. I also swapped the weakest and the strongest hive positions in order to equalize the populations.