A Busy Spring

By: W. Cooley

Last quarter, I described my learnings as a new beekeeper. I left off discussing that I had split one hive to two, caught a swarm, and had one of my hives that I split swarm! However, a busy spring beekeeper season did not stop there.

After keeping a close eye on my hives, I noticed a lot of aggressive behavior and a lack of brood despite a peak time of season in the hives that took part in the split! Warranting further investigation, I continued to peek on them for a couple weeks. With persistent aggressive behavior and a lack of brood, I feared that somehow both of my hives were queenless. To reiterate, the hive that had been split was absolutely bustling and had countless queen cell cups. I had divided half the brood and honey frames and created a split. With multiple queen cell cups on those frames, I thought I would be in the clear. However, the hive that I split swarmed weeks later. I still thought that I would be okay as there were queen cells and if they swarmed then surely they created a new queen.

With much worry and being approximately five weeks out from the split, I took a frame of uncapped, very young brood from my swarm caught hive and placed it into the hive I created from the split. I let my other hive that I divided from and swarmed be let alone, hoping a queen would emerge. As time went on, that hive remained aggressive. Luckily, our good ole’ SIBA librarian, Don Burkart, had just caught a swarm and was willing to give it to me in an attempt to re-queen my hive. We inspected my hive thoroughly for a queen but could not find one. He agreed I was queenless, so we proceeded in combining two hives to one. We removed the top cover of my hive and laid down newspaper; he sprayed the newspaper with sugar water and essential oils and sat the hive he brought over on top of the newspaper. Both hives had frames of honey and were separated from each other by a single sheet of newspaper. After a couple days, I came back and saw that the newspaper had been chewed through. I removed the paper and replaced the deep hive on top with a honey super. In no time, I had brood in my bottom box again and seemingly happy, productive bees. The same goes for the hive that I gave a frame of uncapped brood to. On close inspection, I found my queen amongst her workers and was the first time I had ever seen one of my queens after three years of beekeeping.

The swarm I had caught had to be moved early in its life at my farm as I noticed a lot of fighting at the front entrance. Worried about robbing, I placed an entrance reducer in at night with mesh screen wrapped around it so they could not get out. The next morning, I moved it a strip of land by my driveway so I could easily monitor it frequently. I removed the entrance reducer and all has been well besides their unruliness. I decided to try nine frames instead of ten in my honey super but perhaps they were too spaced and they built comb up between the frames and across the top cover in no time. I wanted to use the comb for my honey but it was filled with larvae. I broke the comb off from the lid and placed it in between frames. When I went back just weeks later, it had happened again. So I repeated the process, but replaced the top cover and added back in the tenth frame eliminating the anarchy.

Overall, my new hives have flourished and created enough honey for me to harvest at early summer. Careful to take only what is extra, I always leave the lowest honey super for the bees as it sometimes has brood overflow and let them have it. Next to two creeks with plentiful resources of honeysuckle, clover, and fruit tree blooms amongst wildflowers, I have minimal interaction with my bees over the summer. I only get in them to check on suspicious behaviors I may notice and to check for hive beetles in the late summer which always seems to be a problem for me in September. I switch out my Swiffer dry sheets that they get stuck to and inspect my frames and lid for any further hiding intruders. Soon, I will harvest fall honey and treat for mites going into the winter especially with the new bee friends I have acquired. I am hoping to expand my little apiary this fall and/or next spring by a couple more hives!

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