Working The Bees

Last winter was awful. It went on forever, and temperatures fluctuated from unseasonable highs to ferocious lows. And it killed all 6 of my colonies.

Ugh. Fifty percent mortality is not unheard of, but all 6?

Even though I prepped them for winter, fed them, treated for mites, provided ventilation. Did everything I usually do. Ultimately, it’s up to the bees, and for whatever reason, these colonies didn’t have it in them. But still, there is beekeeper guilt.

Spring is spring, though, and so we start again.

I was able to get two nucs (“nucleus colonies,” for long), 5 frames each, from my friend Shelly of Mead Magic. Those were

Yes, we bees prefer this stack of unpainted equipment to the perfectly good bait hives nearby.

duly installed a few weeks ago so that I could feed my bee addiction (and have honey for my soaps). I also set up some bait hives in hopes of catching free bees from a swarm. Most summers, I can catch one or two, so I was hopeful. And, of course, a swarm did settle into my equipment, but not into the bait hives. Instead, they picked a stack of unused equipment in my backyard. Of course. There were two perfectly good bait hives next to this unwieldy stack in need of paint, but nooooo.

I suspect they liked this because of the “entrance.” Apparently, a deer had rubbed up against the stack at some point, and nudged the top two boxes over half an inch. this provided an enticing top entrance that the bees couldn’t resist. Also, the medium there has a wonky corner. Ahem.

Rather than be resentful, I’m going to take this as a lesson in how to create better bait hives. Top entrance, check! (The books all say they bait hives should be about 12 feet up in the air with a south facing entrance, but no. I don’t have time for that. If the bees can’t see the primo digs I’m offering and appreciate them, well, they can just go find some hollow tree to live in.)

My plan for checking this swarm was to get in, make sure they were healthy, consolidate them into two deeps and a medium (if the medium was needed), and get out. I took a nuc box with me to hold frames, and to split off a little colony is they were big enough.

Uh, they were big enough. In fact, I split off a 5 frame nuc, and still had to leave them in 3 deeps and a medium because they were so darned big. At leas

New nuc, sitting on top of a bait hive.

t I put them medium on top–I usually use the mediums as my honey supers, and the deeps for brood. So these girls got rearranged a bit.

Given how large the colony is, I’m going make another nuc from them this week, and definitely super them up. Seems like they have good genes! Let’s see if they’re good honey makers, too!

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