Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Animal Update: Bees!

Did you think we had given up on the bees?

We finally got our second hive a few weeks ago.

Our neighbor and fellow bee-keeper had quite a time with this colony.  The girls weren't very co-operative.  However after dealing with them wanting to swarm and generally being uncooperative, he was finally able to convince them to do what they needed to do (stay in the hive and repopulate!) and we finally got our second hive over here.

They have not been as busy as our first hive.  Not sure if that is genetics or just the different time of year.  I checked on them after a few weeks and the hive body was not up to 80% populated.  That meant I could not add a second hive body.  So I twiddled my thumbs for another week and waited out the rain (DON'T try to get in your beehives in the rain.  I'm just sayin'...).

Finally last Thursday before we went on vacation, I did a brief inspection and was able to add the second hive body to this colony.

What a relief!  I can't add new boxes when a lower box is less than 80% full.  If I do, they will give up on the lower and move up to the new one without bothering to fill the lower one.  Then in winter when they start looking for stores, they will move down to the lower boxes, slap themselves on the forehead, and realize, "Oh, duh; we never finished filling this one".  Then they starve.  Unless I feed them.  I'd rather not do that.  II Thessalonians 3:10 and all that.  So we have to wait for them to fill one box before we add another one.  And the hive needs to be at least 3 boxes tall to get through the winter (two hive bodies and one honey-super).

Meanwhile, our "old" girls were going to town.  On the same day that I added the second hive body to the new colony, I was able to do this:

Just look at those hard-working girls!  They are as busy as, well, you know!
They had filled the two hive bodies and the first honey-super and were ready for another honey-super.  They need the first honey-super to get them through the winter.  I MIGHT be able to get some honey from the second super for us, but I'm not counting on it.  More likely what I will do is take excess honey from these hard-working Proverbs 31 women and share it with the younger hive.  It's not that I'm a re-distribution of wealth liberal or anything, but the younger hive may need a helping hand.  I may even have to take a few frames of bees from the stronger hive and let them help the younger, weaker hive figure things out.  Like hard work!

 These are my amazing first-hive-girls.  Impressive, yes?

OK, silliness aside, here is the semi-technical explanation of what happened.  We got the first hive just as everything was starting to really flower and blossom.  These girls had a good head start on the pollen and the nectar flow.  Because the other hive gave our friend some problems (like trying to swarm!), we were later getting the second hive.  When we got them, it was already June.  Most years, they wouldn't have had a chance to get things going and get established for winter.  Fortunately this year's growing season has been unusually slow and late.  We have stuff still blooming (I'm still canning green beans, for goodness' sake!), so they should be able to establish stores for the winter.  However if they don't have at least one honey super full, I will be able to take stores and strong bees from the first colony and move them over into the second colony.  Not only will that help the second colony with their stores, it will also give them some strong workers.  I'm also hoping that we can plant some fall crops and perhaps even some Camellia bushes.

I'm planning on doing another full inspection this week if the rain holds off long enough.
Hot work for a hot week!

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