Bee Diary: Memorial Day Weekend

Beltane                                                                     Waning Last Frost Moon

The bees.  Today the second hive boxes went on each colony.  This means that 70-80% of the frames in the bottom boxes have brood and pollen, requiring more space now for expansion of the growing number of bees.

Without a second hive box the chance of swarming, increased by overcrowding, would become probable.  In the ideal bee keeper world, adding the second hive box, with moving a 500honey-extraction_0231frame from the box below to the new one to entice the bees up, eliminates swarming.  No bee keeper wants a swarm because about half the bees and the young queen leave and the remaining, now queenless workers and nurse bees have to create an emergency queen.  Since half of the workers are gone and emergency queens are not as productive as the new, young queen the beekeeper gets little if any surplus honey.

(this is where we’re headed.  this colony has three deeps and three honey supers.  last august)

On two of the colonies I added regular hive boxes, or deeps, that is a box able to hold the 9 5/8″ frames.  This is the standard UofM beekeeping in northern climates method and it aims toward overwintering of the colonies and using them to both create a new, child colony next spring and a maximum honey producing colony, the parent.  On the third colony, however, I added two honey supers instead of a deep.  This is the same amount of space as a deep, but the honey supers are lighter since they’re only half the size of a deep.

This last colony I plan to manage solely for this year, attempting to get maximum honey production from it.  I’ll accomplish that by extracting all the honey this colony makes.  I estimate I would have had another 150 pounds of honey last year had I practiced this method.  The downside of this method is that the colony will die in the fall because it will have no honey stores to live on through the winter.  It also doesn’t create a parent colony for the UofM method.

This may sound cruel, but if it’s effective, it will only reflect the reality I experienced last winter.  All three of my colonies died.  I had to start with new bees this year.  The honey those colonies made to overwinter filled a deep and a half, the equivalent of 36 full honey supers.  Since we only extracted from 2 full and several partial supers last fall, that would have meant a good deal more honey.

An experiment.  We’ll see how it goes.

It continues to amaze me that these bees are calm, giving me no problem when I do colony inspections.  With smoke they go about their business while I go about mine, the work gets finished and I move on.  Don’t know what the difference is, whether I’m calmer or these are more docile bees.  Maybe a bit of both.