Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Splits | Splitting Beehives | Kids in the Apiary

Splitting is so fun!
Early splits can be especially nerve-wrecking - you need to order your queen bees months in advance and hope for nice weather to put them in. Miraculously, this past week has been wonderful for making early splits. Lows were in the high 50s and the highs are touching 80s. Apples just started blooming on Monday and the dandelions have been going strong.

Our queen bees arrived on Tuesday 5/5 and we were able to make up our splits later in the day (after 7 pm Eastern).

I made up my splits with 2 capped frames of brood with adhering bees and a frame of open nectar. I also added a patty and filled the rest of the box with drawn frames. Since those splits are in my back yard, I did not remove the cork from the queen cages. I am planning on releasing them on Saturday, 5/9. I left the entrances small for the time being.

Everything went according to plan and my kindergartner assistant was very excited.

The shipping package
Spring queen bees
Filling out the boxes with old brood comb
Here is how it went:
  • Opened up the donor hive and selected 4 frames of capped brood.
  • Transferred the frames into the new boxes, making sure I did not grab the queen.
  • My assistant wanted to see the donor queen, so we went hunting for her. Any guesses where we found her? Yep, she was in one of the freshly made up splits.
  • We ooh-ed and aah-ed over her splendor. And yes, an overwintered queen looks decidedly majestic and ginormous (this is a scientific term ;)) compared to a new spring queen.
  • We moved the donor queen back to her hive, after explaining to her that her kids were missing her (and they were getting angry). 
  • We placed the queen cages on top of the brood. We surrounded the brood the honey frames and placed the patty right on top. Finally, we filled up the remainder of the box with drawn comb.
  • We moved the splits to their new location
  • We experienced a short delay in setting them up while my husband removed a "cute baby mouse" from my hive stand. I don't see anything cute in the little heathens, but oh well...
  • Finally, we filled the feeders and called it a night.

Do your kids want to help out in the apiary?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Getting Ready for Spring Splits | Splitting Beehives

Overwintered queen and newly emerged bees
April was wonderful for buildup. On my first inspection on 3/31, the queen had just started laying with only a couple of frames filled with brood/eggs.

I kept adding patties weekly as the bees were going through them pretty quickly. We had some marginal weather during the first half of April, but the buildup continued steadily.

As of my last inspection on April 26, the bottom box is fully filled with brood and the brood nest is expanding into the second box. The first round of brood is emerging - you can see some brand new fuzzy white bees on the bottom left of the queen picture.

At this point, I can either start expanding the brood nest to try and prevent/delay swarming or I can attempt some early splits. And yes, I have drones!

At this point, I am not planning on letting them raise
Bee patties are going quickly
when the brood rearing gets going
their own queens, because I don't want to miss the early spring buildup. The dandelions are just starting to bloom. Instead, I have ordered VSH queens and they should be arriving some time next week (May 2). The long range forecast calls for lows in the high 50s and highs are in the high 70s. Perfect time for spring splits.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring cleanup in the apiary

On Wednesday, April 1, I was finally able to peek under the covers. The temperature was balmy 69F, it was sunny and really pleasant. I took the opportunity to do my spring cleanup:

  • Assess cluster size and food reserves
  • Check the brood nest
  • Clean out the bottom boards

  • I was pleasantly surprised with the size of the clusters. The queen had just started laying. If I needed to treat for mites, it would have been a great opportunity since I found only eggs. At this point in time even a sugar shake combined with cleaning out the bottom board in about 15 minutes or a sticky board would have had a major impact. I did not have to do anything since the mite numbers were very low.

    The bees were making headway on the patties I provided on the weekend. They were heavily working the maple trees. They had multiple pollen frames, a couple of frames of nectar and almost no capped honey. I added a couple of capped honey frames that I held back in the fall.

    I reversed the hive bodies and cleaned out the bottom boards. The hives are all spruced up and ready to go.

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015

    Spring is almost here! in Maria's apiary

    Winter finally let go on Saturday, March 28 and I was able to slip new protein patties into the hives.

    This year, the patties are softer since they were drying out too quickly last year. I’ve also added a few drops of lemongrass oil and spearmint oil to make them more palatable. Each hive got one of the old batch and one of the new batch, so we shall see how that turns out.

    I did not get much of a peek inside since it was in the 40s. However, the maples are blooming and as usual, the temps are taking us for a wild ride. Tomorrow, the weatherman is promising us almost 70F. Hopefully, I will be able to take a quick peek in and assess the situation.

    How are your bees doing?

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Hindsight is 20/20: My beekeeping Summer

    Man plans and God laughs

    My summer was pretty much a blur. I managed to mostly follow the plan that I outlined in How to maximize your honey production while minimizing swarming (Part II). I am very grateful that I had this plan, because in the swirl of my day-to-day responsibilities, I did not have much time to putter in the hives and try out new things. I had a target date, manipulations that needed done and that was that.

    I am happy to report that I ended up with 10 5 gallon extracted honey buckets from my 5 hives that survived the polar vortex. I ended up leaving 2 full deep supers on 2 of those hives since couple of the middle frames had some unhatched drone brood and I did not have the time to try to move those further down. I also distributed a full supper among my new spring packages to make sure they have adequate supplies for winter.

    Overall, I am happy with the results even though I did not have the time to grow my apiary the way I planned to. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting some more details and pictures! from my beekeeping summer.

    Now, the only thing left to do is to make sure they are protected for the winter.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: I am finally able to peek under the covers!

    An overwintered double deep hive
    We had some gorgeous weather in the past week and I was able to take some pictures of the clusters.

    They are looking great considering the winter that we had and the fact that when I took those pictures, the maples hadn't started blooming yet.

    A hive that overwintered in a single deep
    As I mentioned in my previous post, I added patties since I did not think the bees will be able to benefit much from the maples. Turns out I had it right - the maples bloomed over the weekend and the cold weather promptly set in. Yesterday's high was below freezing and today's high is only 43F (6C).

    Fortunately, I was able to add some frames of honey to the lighter ones.

    Looks like Thursday and Friday next week will be perfect to take a peek at the brood and equalize it. The timing is perfect according to my calendar - just about right for the apple bloom (

    I am hoping the weather forecast stays the same. How is your Spring prep going? Drop me a note in the comments.

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    Beekeeping With Kids

    My helper and me. We are getting ready
    to check on our queen cells.
    Sooner or later, your friends and family will become curious and will want to visit your apiary. I've shown (and shown off) my honey bees to a lot of people. Below are some of my experiences.

    I'll start with the obvious :D. It is a lot easier to show off hives in Spring and early Summer while the bees are on a flow and mostly ignore intrusions.

    I usually show beginner beekeepers my nucs. In this way I can show them a nice selection of frames (honey, brood and pollen) without a lot of lifting and digging through multiple boxes. I can also find the queen fairly quickly. In addition, the nucs are not as defensive as the fully-grown production hives. Another positive is that beginner beekeepers are not going to be overwhelmed with the sheer number of bees in a production hive.

    Before we even get close, I make sure that everybody's bee suit is bee tight and then I go over the basic rules. The rules may be obvious for us beekeepers, but beginners probably never even thought about them.

    First, of course, I point out the safety zone. This is the place where my assistants can go and take off their bee suits if they get overwhelmed, scared, stung, hot or simply bored. I also make sure that everybody understands that they cannot come back towards the hives unless their bee suit is back on and zipped up.

    Then, I cover the basics of dealing with a bee sting - you scrape the stinger off and puff a few puffs of smoke on the site to cover the pheromone. Then, you can either head to the safety zone or stay and help me finish up.

    After that it is time to head to the hives. I don't plan to do any special manipulations if I can help it. The main goal of the visit is to show my friends the hive and how to complete a basic inspection. I have found that it helps to "narrate" as you go (make sure you name and point out all the parts):

    • "You puff a little bit of smoke at the entrance to let the honey bees know that we're going to be visiting them. Wait for a bit, so that they can calm down"
    • "Now, we can open the telescoping cover. A puff of smoke will keep them out of our way".
    • And so on
    Be prepared to give up your hive tool and smoker. I ended up having to get spares in order to be able to assist the newly minted beekeepers. 

    Finally, don't forget to have fun!

    Have you shown off your hives to your friends and family? Do you have helpers? Drop me a line in the comments!