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The good news! Mary’s first spring hive inspection

24th April 2008

The good news! Mary’s first spring hive inspection

posted in Our Hives |

We were ambitious, and brave- especially after a winter of not messing with stinging venomous bugs!- and did some solid, serious work with both Mary and Susan today.

This is Year #2 for our hives, and even Italians are likely to swarm in the second year, so we’ve been reading up on how to slow down that tendency. One way is to switch the hive bodies around come spring. Our girls are in 2 deep 10-frame hive bodies each, and during the winter they tend to start in the bottom one, work their ways through the honey stores there and gradually move up into the top hive body- so come spring, the queen and the brood  are in the top one. And the queens do not tend to like to move downward! So the girls will fill up the top hive body, ignore the bottom one, say “Oops! Out of room! Better swarm!” and then start to prepare for that.

So: in the spring it is generally considered a Good Idea to swap the hive bodies around, putting the top one on the bottom and vice-versa. This also gives us a really good chance to see what’s going on in the hives, in detail! For example, we had not even looked into the lower hive bodies since putting the top ones on last summer! (Yes- shame on us- we really should have…)

Mary is looking good. She is arguably a bit honey-bound (most of her frames are filled with brood and/or honey and pollen stores), but there were no signs of swarming. We didn’t manage to see her queen, which disappoints me; still, the hive is thriving. As compared to last fall, she was very mellow indeed; we had taken her entire hive apart, basically, and she wasn’t even sounding the least bit pissed off. We’re now quite sure that it is important to wash the bee suit often to ensure it has no alarm pheromones on it, since that’s probably what caused them to be irritable last fall. there were a lot of healthy, hard-working bees, lots of capped brood (I’m still bad at identifying eggs or small larvae in the cells), and some but not an excessive number of capped drone cells. (This will become relevant later!)

So we switched the hive bodies around, put a couple of frames of brood in the upper one to make more room in the now-lower one, and finally added a queen excluder and a shallow super with all of the drawn comb we have that fits it (9 frames- we need to prep some more frames with foundation, so we can add one more there and fill another super or 2). We’re hoping that this gives them enough breathing room to slow down swarming ambitions! Since the spring nectar flow seems to be happening, in a couple of days we’ll put one of the Bee-o-pac supers on Mary, too. This time I’m rubbing beeswax over the bottoms of the cells, and spraying with a syrup solution. I’m hoping that improves acceptance from, well, none at all!


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  1. 1 On May 11th, 2008, ryan said:

    hello, i cant help but notice you have been following commercial bee manuals. May i suggest a book to you called Toward saving the honey bee, by gunther Hauk. It is very important for new bee keepers to understand there is more than one way to keep bees, and the commercial way leaves the bees very unhealthy.i just wanted to let you know about the importance of natural comb making. Foundationless beekeeping. you see the comb is the womb. it is flaked out from the bloodstream and contains specific elements that provide nourishment and vitality. Comb made by the bees also has correct cell size, producing the correct sized bees, which in turn naturally combats Varroa and tracheal mites to near 100% efficiency. Also feeding bees syrup will damage the digestive tract(Nosema) since sugar syrup(even beet) is nearly in soluable to them. Queen excluders can be a cruel way to direct the queen against her natural instincts and can actually lead to her death in an emergency sitution. i have thousands of hours in both commercial and bio dynamic/ organic beekeeping experience. I have never lost a hive with the latter, nor have anyone in our group . i wish you the besr of luck with your colonies. maybe you will experiment a little? aloha

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