Courtney came out to the hives with me today, so I finally have pictures to post! It’s been quite some time. But first I must fondly recall what shall be forever known as the Great Sprint, April 2012. I looked up from the hives at one point to see Courtney in full sprint down the driveway. One of these days I’m going to convince her that running from the bees is not the best thing….
This past week was a plethora of bee activities. First, as you know, was moving Hive 1 (it’s now Hive 2), hiving the three new packages (Hive 1, 3, and 5), and getting stung ten times. On Thursday, I got back in the newly packaged hives finally (darned rain) to make sure all was going well. All three queens were out and about, and the were starting to draw wax on my nice new all plastic frames. Success!
Today, I had Mackay help me (he’s the one who typically assists). I like having Mackay out there. More often than not, we are closer to the blind leading the blind, but Mackay is getting to the point where he is just as capable as I am, which is pretty much the only way I’d ever be able to handle doing five hives at this point. It won’t be all that much longer before we each start at opposite ends of Bee Row and meet in the middle. That’ll be nice, and Mackay will reap the happy rewards come this fall!
Mackay’s brother-in-law and his wife also came to the hives today. They’ve wanted to do bees for a while, and this was a good chance for them to try it out, see how it works, and just enjoy themselves. They had a good time, and I think they caught the bee bug. One can hope.
For tasks, we replaced the platforms the bees were sitting on. They had been sitting on two 2X6 planks that had started to warp. I replaced those with new 4X4 cedar posts sitting on top of cinder blocks, which raises the hives slightly higher and won’t warp quite so easily. That involved moving all four existing hives, which ended up releasing a blizzard o’ bees. After that, we split Hive 2 into Hive 2 and Hive 4. We found the queen, moved her to Hive 4 and then just basically did a one for you, one for me kind of split (Walk Away). I had hoped to mimic an artificial swarm, but the box was so full that I just felt like we should get it done. There were enough bees that I even supered Hive 4 already. Yes, I put a super box on top of a newly split hive! It was that full with every frame having either honey, pollen, or brood.
Last but not least, I placed piles of pulled weeds in front of Hive 2 and 4 to encourage reorientation. I’m hoping NOT to have to switch Hive 2 and 4 in a few days to balance them, but we’ll see how that goes.
On to the pictures! First is one from March….
This is from late March, looking down to the bottom board in the old Hive 1. I just love the depth of this shot and the texture in that wood. Courtney’s camera is quite impressive.
Mackay and I getting ready to go. My new watering jug is in the bottom right. It’s a chicken watering jug that I converted by filling the bottom full of rocks to give them room to stand. It holds 5-gallons, so I’m hopeful we won’t have to fill it too often.
Note Mackay’s fine looking beekeeping outfit. That was an early birthday present to Mackay from me and Courtney. I’m sure Mackay, if he were reading this, would say something like, “Yes, and I make it look good!”
The yellow hives are the newly packaged hives. The tall hive is the survivor from winter. In the foreground are the new screened bottom boards, and underneath are the packages that I have yet to return to my supplier.
Mackay and I moving the three new hives off the cinder blocks so we can replace the platform. We used TONS of smoke. We normally don’t, but after last week’s ten stings, I’d like to avoid a sting for a little while. Courtney took several photos of my swollen angle, but they don’t quite do it justice, so I’ll just leave it up to your imagination.
Hive 2 out of the way…. We replaced all the bottom boards with screened bottom boards. I’ve really liked the old bottom boards–they just felt really firm and solid–but I do want to give the screens a chance. We’ll see how they go.
This is across the brood box from Hive 2. Note the cloud of bees. That cloud extended about 10 feet in any direction from the hives.
Here’s our new platform. I wish it were longer than it is. I ended up getting 8-foot posts. The space is 9’8″, and I didn’t want to cut down a 10-foot post. I wish I had. The extra space would have been very helpful. As it is, the squeeze was quite tight.
Moving Hive 1, 3, and 5 back into position. By the way, I’m more or less determined to move to Top Bar hives eventually. One of the reasons is the weight. These single boxes with the newly packaged bees were light enough, but the old hive… Man, those get heavy fast.
Still carefully working out the positioning. The spacing was so tight that it was just annoying.
Sadly, this was taken just moments before the Great Sprint, so this is the last picture of us actually in the hives.
From here we, as described earlier, did a walk away split on Hive 2 to get a new Hive 4. I added three new empty frames to both Hive 2 and Hive 4 to open the brood nest a bit. Both got a second deep filled with honey that was salvaged from the old Hive 2, which died over the winter (I can see now that I’m going to have to figure out a better naming convention….).
I also moved four frames from that set of frames with the turned nectar into the new hives. These frames were largely capped honey with no nectar. I still have six frames with turned nectar that I need to figure out. I had read that you can shake out the turned nectar, which I tried. And no you can’t. At this point, I’m half-tempted to set them out and let a robbing frenzy pull all the honey out and then just harvest the wax. Part of me is also just ready to toss them wholesale in the trash. I’ve got enough spare frames that it isn’t that big of a deal, but still… what a waste.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a queen yellow jacket. Lower down in the trap is a second queen I caught a few weeks ago. I’ve caught exactly two yellow jackets in this trap, both of which I believe are queens. I also killed at least a dozen other yellow jackets and wasps while working today, including pulling down six new nests coming up. They really like to set up shop in my shed, which is unfortunate.
Here’s the end result with weeds in front of 2 and 4 to encourage reorientation. Hopefully it works well. I did make sure to leave more brood in Hive 2 (queenless now) along with all the eggs to encourage and support them. I also left them in the original Hive 2 location to encourage more foragers to come back here. Hive 4 will end up weaker at the start for it, but since Hive 4 already has a strong, productive queen, I think they’ll recover just fine.
Quite the attractive and impressive set up if I do say so myself. Truly. I can’t wait until they all stand four boxes high, bursting with bees and honey. I still wish I had a touch more space between them, but this does work. If space gets much tighter, I may have to look at getting migration covers.
Looking back, it was about this time last year when I really got excited to start setting up. I had a random guy at a local beekeeping meeting just tell me to do it. I convinced myself for two weeks that I couldn’t, that I was out of time. And then I just decided I wasn’t. Now only a year later, there are five. Not only that, but I’ve convinced my dad to join in (two top bars plus a nice welcome-to-the-club sting right on his bald spot!), my boss (two Langstroths), Mackay (no hives yet, but someday), Spencer (a friend who will join in next year), Kristy and Josh (Mackay’s relatives), and possibly my sister Shelly. Oh, and another friend from work who is trying to find a place to keep hives.
When I get asked, all I can say is that it’s worth it. Completely.