Hive-Mind

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Shufflin’

First, for those of you who have been losing sleep over my difficulties in establishing a laying queen in my second hive, rest easy: she’s there and she’s laying. I checked over the weekend and the two brood chambers are full of good, healthy brood. I pulled over the top feeder and added a honey super. All’s well.

The first hive is doing well, too. I checked up on them last week and saw that the second honey super was getting close to full, so I added a third. I decided to try an experiment, though.

I know that every little bit of extra work you make the bees do can come out of your bottom line, even making them climb through two extra honey supers to get to the new empty one I’d put on top. So I tried a little swap: I reversed the positions of the honey supers. That is, I put what had previously been the bottom honey super on top of the stack and added the new, empty super to the middle of the stack, just above the brood chambers.

Since it’s not a true, controlled experiment (how will I know whether it “worked”?), I decided to ask the advice of Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm, the beekeeper selling at our local farmer’s market who I have drafted as my mentor.

Karen gave my move the thumb’s up. She said she doesn’t bother with all that switching, mostly to spare her back (a wise woman, indeed), but she did recommend one easier switch:

When adding a new super, she suggested taking two center frames from the top-most honey super, which would likely have some brood in them, and placing them in the center of the newly added super. (The presence of brood on those frames is predicated on the notion that you’re not using a queen excluder, which we don’t.) Then take the displaced empty frames from the new super and place them in positions 2 and 9 of the almost full super (that is, not outermost, where they may be ignored, but close to it).

The goal of the maneuver is to give the bees some encouragement to start moving in to the new, empty super. She noted that if there is brood present, it’s best not to shake off the nurse bees that will be tending them.

I’ll give that a whirl next.

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Bees in his Bonnet

Got a question from a reader, Louise:

Wondering if you’ve ever experienced this: We thought the bees had been particularly busy and were all set to add a second honey super on one hive. Went in to look at the first and were shocked to see that all the cells that should have been loaded with honey had larvae in them! We must have trapped the queen in above the excluder some how. We can’t figure out how she got up there otherwise. We’re not looking at drone cells either. So technically there are now three hive bodies on one hive. We plan to remove the unintended hive body (the honey super) in the fall and start over. Cannot figure out how this happened. We will place a honey super on top though–have moved the excluder, brushed off all bees before doing so.

We had 5 swarms this spring, not sure if this has anything to do with this–could the queen be small enough to fit through the excluder? We haven’t been able to spot her.

For myself, I don’t use a queen excluder: I figure a little bit of brood in the lower chamber is small price to pay for the extra ease of motion it gives the bees, and the cells tend to have hatched by the time I go to harvest in the Fall, anyway.

That said, it sounds to me like, despite their best efforts, the queen ended up on the wrong side of the barrier. I doubt it was that she slipped through, otherwise I would expect her to be able to slip through in the other direction, and she would certainly prefer to lay low than high.

Others have advice to share?

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Importing Honey?

I got an e-mail tonight that I almost deleted as spam. It seemed at first glance to be one of those “I want to transfer $2 million to your account” scams. But it isn’t. Here’s what it said:

Dear Jordan.
Is any way you can find me market of honey in order to increase more Hives in my Farm?
What is the price for one litre in your country.
I can get one 1000 litres per season.
I am from Tanzania East Africa.
Eagerly waiting for your responds and comments regarding this.
Thanks
Joseph Liberio Pablo

Maybe I’m a sucker for the idea of farmers (beekeepers!) in poor countries trying to make a living by look beyond their horizons, but I want to help. I’m also a sucker for exotic honeys: I have a jar of killer bee from Venezuela, what does Tanzanian honey taste like?

So, is there any advice people have for Joseph? My guess is that there are all sorts of import rules and tariffs and quotas and what-have-yous, but maybe somebody has an idea?

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Missing Eggs: Solved

I’ve got to say, it’s become very handy having a beekeeper at my local Farmer’s Market. I wandered up there this past week, as I always do, and chatted up Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm. In particular, I wondered if she had any insight into the Case of the Missing Eggs. Turns out, she did!

One reason that a queen will pause egg-laying, apparently, is a “nectar dearth”. She said this with some puzzlement, since we’ve had spectacular weather here lately and we’re in the full blush of Spring, so there shouldn’t really be any shortage in area. However, when I offered that I had removed the sugar syrup supplies from my hives, she brightened: yep, the withdrawal of a ready source of nectar-like drink could be interpreted as a nectar dearth and would lead to a gap in egg-laying.

I don’t regret pulling the syrup. I know many beekeepers keep feeding until the girls stop taking it, but I prefer to pull when I put on the honey supers: 100% of my honey should come from Wallingford flowers, not Florida sugar plantations. (No offense intended if you prefer the supplement. I’m sure the amount of sugar that ends up in the supers is infinitesimal, it’s just matter of pride for me.)

I’ll try again this weekend (I’m giving a tour of my hives on Sunday to some folks from the neighborhood, so I’ll have to hassle the girls anyway). Hopefully we’ll be able to get both hives back on track.

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Pollen

I’m used to seeing varying colors of honey based on what’s in bloom at any given time, but I’ve never been struck before at how beautiful the different shades of pollen on a single frame can be.

Pollen
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Nasty Thirst

Despite having a relatively small backyard, having bees has rarely been a problem. This past few weeks, though, it’s become increasingly difficult to spend an afternoon out back without getting harrassed by the girls.

I’ve always had Italian bees up until this year, when I got my first hive of Carniolans, and so I was worried that the Carnies were simply more aggressive. On a recent trip up to the Wallingford Farmer’s Market, I chatted with Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm about it, though, and she suggested that they might just be thirsty. It has been unusually hot these past few weeks, and we cleared out a bunch of old pots that had been collecting water for years and that the bees had probably been using as water source.

Karen suggested putting garbage can lid with some pea gravel in it in the yard and filling with water. The pear gravel is to account for the fact that bees aren’t so hot at swimming, so they need something solid to take off and land from.

I’m giving it a shot and will let you know how it turns out.

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