Sunday, May 23, 2010


Finally got around to getting into the big hive. It's 3 deeps and they seemed packed and on the verge of swarming. (I usually checkerboard hives much earlier to prevent this, but life happens.) Found some queen cells: 1 open 2 capped. Moved all into new hive, hope I left the queen in the old one. Hopefully, the old queen hadn't taken off yet, but seems like there wouldn't have been so many bees hanging out if she had. If the stars align, I'll get back in there in a few weeks to make sure all's good. Homer got a nuc last night. So if this all works we'll have 4 hives. Pic above is a frame that hasn't been fully drawn. I don't use foundation, so it's up do them to do what they will.
Before smoking them... what a great sight.
See how white the new wax is? Sorry for the lack of photography skills, but using the camera with thick gloves and all that buzzing is tricky. They were extremely gentle considering how strong the hive is. Makes me think they are still queenright. (Bees w/o a queen get surly.) Yesterday Homer was mowing a spot for the new nuc (nucleus hive) and I stupidly walked over there and a bee from this hive stung me right on the forehead. (Plaintain salve to the rescue.) So, I was glad to see it was only the mower that they don't like. They are fine with me taking their entire hive apart :) More details: Most the brood was in the middle deep. Bottom was mostly filled nectar (backfilling the broodnest?) I took about 9 frames for the new hive with the queen cells and attached bees. Lots of capped brood and honey. Replaced them with empty frames in the old hive. Still some messy comb in the top deep which I can deal with once it's full of capped honey. Told Homer to keep his eye out in case it swarms anyway.
Update: I was reading Michael Bush's website: "Stop cutting out swarm cells. I read the books and I tried to do this when I was young, inexperienced and foolish. The bees soon taught me what a waste of time and effort it was. If the bees have made up their mind to swarm, do a split or put each frame with some swarm cells in a nuc with a frame of honey and get some nice queens. Once they've gone this far, I've never seen them change their mind. Of course the solution was to keep it from getting this far. Keeping the brood nest open while keeping enough expansion room in the supers is the best swarm control I've found. If the brood nest is getting filled with honey, put a couple of empty frames in. Yes, empty. No foundation, nothing. Try it. The bees will build some drone comb, probably the first frame, but after that they'll draw some very nice worker brood and the queen will have it layed up before the whole comb is even drawn or even full depth. You'll be shocked how quickly they can do this and how it distracts them from swarming."

Fortunately, the frames I took from the broodnest, I replaced with empty frames.

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  1. fascinating! How many times a year do you do this maintenance and how much honey does each hive produce?

  2. Thanks! This was my first time seeing queen cells. If I had done the checkerboarding earlier this spring, there probably wouldn't have been any. The checkerboarding disrupts the reproductive swarming process :)

    How much honey? It depends so much on the weather. Mine mostly forage on wildflowers, so if we don't get enough rain or get too much then there's not much nectar. Last fall we got 5 gallons from one hive and none from the other. "The other" is this year's big hive... Never a dull moment.