"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Opening the Hives Again (Long Live the Queen).

We've had a short stretch of beautiful weather these last few days. Today it is actually rather uncomfortably hot - well, uncomfortably hot if you are turning the compost pile and moving wheelbarrows full of dirt around, as I have been doing all day. But the last few days have been the absolute definition of gorgeous, as far as I'm concerned - sunny, light breeze, temperature somewhere around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Perfect weather for opening up the beehives. I've been putting it off. Truth to tell, I was a bit nervous since I got stung (A Bee Bit my Butt). But there's no getting around it - it was time to open them and see how the hives are doing. I needed in particular to know if I still have queens. So Rowan and I suited up and went out to the hives about three o'clock yesterday. Homero, saying he is "muy macho," asserted that he needed no gloves or hat or anything else. When I questioned his judgement, he simply unbuttoned his shirt and said he would go out barechested. I decided to shut up before he took off his pants.

With Homero manning both the smoker and the camera, we opened up one hive. As you can see in the picture above, there is quite a bit of capped comb, but I don't know what is inside. When we observed my neighbor open his hives, he pointed out the capped brood and you could see the eggs or larva inside. Here, I couldn't. In this first hive, we didn't see any eggs or larva anywhere, and we DID see several "supercells." Supercells are those peanut shaped protuberances at lower left in the picture below. These are queen cells - it most likely means that the queen of this hive has died or flown away. I think I am supposed to cut away these supercells before the queen emerges to avoid a swarm, and buy a new queen. I'm going to call my bee-mentor and ask him what I should do.

The second hive looked much better. We saw both large larva ready to emerge and fresh new eggs. I don't have much doubt that the second hive has a healthy egg-laying queen. However, I was a little bit disappointed at the lack of new comb.

Each of my hives has nine frames in it, and four or five of those were nice, drawn out comb before I ever put any bees in. I was hoping to find that the boxes now had seven or eight frames full of comb and I could put on a second box. That's not what I found. It actually appears that the bees have been busy laying eggs, collecting nectar and pollen and capping the comb already in there, but not doing anything much about drawing out new comb.

That's probably my fault. At the monthly meeting of the Mt Baker Beekeeper's association last week, I learned that this time of year there is actually a dearth of nectar flow. The maple trees and the dandelions are about over, but the clover and the blackberries haven't bloomed yet. I thought I could quit feeding my bees sugar syrup once the weather warmed up, but not so. They need syrup until the blackberries come into bloom early next month. Apparently, you have to add a second box and let the colony really build up its numbers before you can add a honey super. And the first honey super is for the bees to survive the winter. The second honey super is for you - and most colonies don't get there the first year.

So, even though it's kind of expensive to keep feeding the colonies a quart of sugar syrup each
every other day or so, I just need to keep in mind that a quart of sugar syrup costs about $0.25, and a quart of honey is worth about $10.00.


polly's path said...

I am impressed with how much you already know about the process, and how you are sticking to it, Aimee. I know you will be rewarded at the end with the best honey you have ever tasted.
Hey, my daughter was just peeking over my shoulder and told me to ask you HOW IN THE WORLD DID YOU BREED SUCH BEAUTIFUL BABY GOATS???? What's the breed?