I promised an update on the bees, so today that’s what I am providing! I talked briefly about how the bees were doing in last week’s post, but for part 3 I’ll go into a little more detail and share some more pictures. I won’t always put so many pictures of the hive being assembled and disassembled, but at this point in the beekeeping season, it’s still kind of important to understanding what is going on.
If you haven’t already you can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here in our Beekeeping adventure. It’s been a little over a month since my original posts on the topic. After the initial installation, there was a check on the hives after just a few days. Since then there have been a few examinations of the hives. I wish I would have been able to take pictures each time, especially this last time, but certain circumstances prevented that from happening.
Scott and Tiffany checked on the bees just a few days after the initial installation, and then again about 2 weeks after they installed them. That first check was not a full inspection, but rather a check to make sure that the bees had not left the hives. We made a rookie mistake when opening the queen cages, and removed the cork from the wrong end of the cage. It wasn’t until after the cages were removed that the error was completely understood. But the inspection just over a week later proved that everything seemed to be doing well. The bees were doing their work, laying brood and making honey. According to Scott and Tiffany…not much to report. They decided to wait another 2 weeks to check on the hive. As I said in one of the other posts (according to research done) bees should be checked on a maximum of once a week, a minimum of once every two weeks. The bees appeared to be doing just fine, and with rainy and windy weather, it didn’t seem to pay to upset the bees while they got settled.
We did a check again on Thursday, June 8th. The kids have all been asking if they could see Scott and Tiffany work on the hives, so we took them all out to watch from a distance. It wasn’t as exciting as they expected 🙂 From observing the different hives while we take walks and from previous examinations, Tiffany and Scott knew that one of the hives was doing especially well, and planned to put the first honey super on the hive. This first hive showed lots of activity…brood being laid and honey being stored. From a distance you can easily see lots of bees coming and going from this particular hive.
To begin with, they removed both the inner and outer covers of the hive.
They checked a few frames in the upper brood box, and then removed that whole box (frames and all) and checked on the lower box.
There was lots of activity in this hive, so they put everything back together, being careful not to crush the bees. Instead of putting the cover on top of the brood box, they placed on the queen excluder. The queen excluders that we have are like a metal grate or vent, with gaps large enough to allow worker bees to pass through, but too small for the queen to be able to move into the honey supers. Excluders are put on to keep the queen from laying eggs in the portion of the hive. The entire upper boxes then fill with honey, which is where they get the name honey super from.
They only placed one super box on, and filled that with drawn comb frames, and on top of that, they replaced the inner and outer covers.
The second hive they checked on was not doing very well. It was unclear whether or not the queen was still active in the hive. They had a plan for if the queen was not active, but they wanted to give it a bit of time since it was obvious the queen had been active previously. (By active, I mean that she is continuing to lay more eggs. A hive goes through many bees through one full honey season, and if the queen is no longer active, there will not be enough worker bees to keep the hive alive. They will either die or move on.) The decision was to wait another week before taking any measures in terms of getting a replacement queen for the colony.
Then they checked the second set of hives. Neither of these proved to be as active as the first hive they checked that day, but both seemed more active than the second hive examined. The third hive to be inspected, they found the queen, though there was not nearly as much honey or brood in this hive as the other, so they decided it was not time to put on a super yet. They would wait until they reached the 80% full mark for the brood boxes before placing on the super.
The fourth hive was Tiffany’s experimental foundationless frame hive. After the less than stellar results of the first hive checked, she was nervous to look inside of the hive. This was the first time she examined that hive since they checked on it for Part 2. The results were encouraging! Plenty of new comb was being built, and it seemed as though the bees were building their comb inside of the frames as they should be, not like they did after the initial installation. There were lots of bees and lots of activity. The conclusion was that because the bees had to invest all of their time building the comb , it was taking longer to get the hive developed to the point of honey production. Since the bees needed to build the hive and take care of the brood, all of their time and energy was being put into that instead of honey production. The conclusion was that if we were to do foundationless frames again, it would be best to keep them in the honey supers and let the bees simply work on cleaning the hive and strengthening their colony in the beginning. Once the colony is strong, it would be easier for them to work on building comb. Then there would also be more food available to the bees since the flowers would be blooming more strongly at that point.
Tiffany sprinkled some cinnamon around all of the hives that day to help keep ants away from the hives, as we don’t want them to invade.
The last examination that was performed on June 16th. Of the two hives that were struggling on the last inspection, they found that the one that they examined 3rd appeared to be doing well, and they were able to find the queen for the hive. The hive that was examined second on the previous inspection still seemed to be doing poorly. After doing some research, Tiffany decided that she would switch a frame from the hive that did really well (the one they had added a super to) with half un-capped brood, with a frame from the hive that was doing poorly, in hopes that the worker bees will then be able to make a new queen (rather than us buying one) from the brood of the new frame. The frame from the poor hive should not have an impact on the health of the stronger hive. If the bees do not make a new queen, one of two things will happen: We will have to mail order a queen, and if the bees accept her the hive will have a chance of success. If they do not accept her or we cannot get a queen in time, there is a chance that this hive will die.
After examining all of the hives on the 16th, they decided that they will take the time to cut the comb out of all of their frames for the honey supers, and allow the bees to build their own comb. We would like to be able to harvest our own beeswax, and either do crushed or cut comb for our honey, and this will allow us to do that. Yes, it will take more work from the bees, and yes, it may mean that we end up with less honey, but then we’ll be getting two products from the bees instead of just one.
We had decided that even though technically speaking, two hives are Scott’s and two are Tiffany’s, that we will share everything 50-50 at the end of the season. That way we all get something in the end, and nobody can singularly be a failure. It also means that we all have more invested into the success of the other’s hives (not that we wouldn’t care to begin with, but…).
I am hoping to have a post up in the next few days with info about the giveaway. So far, I’ve made a cute pair of pillowcases and one fun pot holder. I’m going to be making a second potholder, and I am in the process of making a chicken purse! (That’s a purse with chickens on it, not a purse for a chicken, btw 😉 ). I am contemplating making crafts here and there to put up for sale on our site, but I wanted to do some practicing and see how much interest they get.
P.S. We like to buy the giant bottles of cinnamon at Walmart (I use most of it for cooking/baking), but you can get it here. It’s great for keeping ants away…some people will sprinkle it into their sandboxes to keep the ants from pestering their children.