Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Bees

After watching our happy, active bees for a week, Adam decided the large Langstroth hive was good for making a split. That means he will remove some bees, brood, and food from the hive and place it all in another small box, called a Nuc Box. A Nuc Box looks like this. It's the small box sitting on top:
(The box beneath the Nuc Box is also rather small, but it's a fully-functioning hive, just smaller boxes that contain fewer frames and are not so heavy to lift!)
Here's the Langstroth, such a healthy hive. The two small boxes in the middle of the stack are the oldest bee boxes we own. They came from the original bees we were given by an elderly gentleman in Statesville nearly five years ago. His daddy had a hive of bees at their lake house. Those boxes are very old. You can read about that first adventure here.
That fellow also gave Adam a bee smoker. Adam places some smoldering cardboard inside, packed tight with green weeds.
He stands behind the hives to do the work, avoiding bees and stings.
He removes the lid from the Langstroth.
And the cover. The bees have moved up into the top of the hive over the winter.
He lifts the top box off and checks the frames.
He takes a very quick peek into the middle boxes to see how full the hive is.
It's important to do hive inspections, but most bee keepers overdo this. They inspect their hives too often, disrupt their bees and do more harm than good. One reason Adam's bees survived the winter so well is because he left them their honey in the fall and he did not disrupt them in the fall and winter. Plus, his bees were well-established, old hives.
He replaces all the boxes in the stack. Then he begins to examine individual frames in the top box, looking for good candidates to transfer into the Nuc Box.
He wants: a frame of bee bread, a frame of honey, a frame of young brood, and an empty frame. Four frames will fill the Nuc Box.
This is a frame of honey. There is no brood on this frame.

This frame has brood, unborn bees. See the cells on the frame that are capped? They are bulging out, full of babies.
Putting young brood into a Nuc Box is important. The bees will not abandon the new box as long as there are babies there. Also, the goal is to force the bees in the Nuc Box to make their own queen since they don't have one. Then must choose a baby bee cell and "groom" that baby to be a new queen. The brood must be young enough for them to do this.
He's chosen his three frames from the Langstroth.
Before closing up the Langstroth he places empty frames in there to take the place of the three he's removed. Soon the healthy hive will fill those frames with comb again and use them.
And he puts in one empty frame, and the Nuc Box is complete. He puts it in its spot in the line-up.
Our hives are all so different; they have their own personalities. After this photo was taken, Adam decided to swap the Nuc Box with the Warre hive that's on the left in this photo. That way, when the Warre bees come back home after a hard day of flying, loaded with pollen or nectar, they will fly into the Nuc Box and help populate it with more working bees.
I tried to get some photos today of bees with heavy pollen in their "saddle bags." Bees are hard to photograph!
 See the deep orange and pale yellow? That's pollen, coming into the hive. They use it to make bee bread to feed their babies.
 Here's another one with pale yellow. There were dozens coming in with loaded legs, but I could not capture them on film.
 I like this photo because of the chubby bee flying in for a landing on the left.
Update: The Nuc Box split happened a couple of days ago. This morning Adam checked the Nuc Box and did not see any queen cells being formed. So he removed that frame of brood and found another brood frame from the Langstroth -- a frame that had at least THREE queen cells already formed! He quickly put that frame in the Nuc Box -- so there's a really good chance of getting a queen in there very soon. It was also good to know that the Langstroth bees are making queen cells, most likely attempting to replace their present queen. Bee work is never boring!


  1. How interesting! This obviously a very exacting science/hobby. We have a friend who used to keep bees, but I didn't know much about it.

  2. Great photos to go with explanations simple enough for me to follow ;-)
    Thank you!
    And I always love pictures of bees anyway.

  3. You guys are so brave, and accomplished, and clever, and resourceful, and...

  4. So many buzzing bees! You know a lot about beekeeping, MK!

  5. This is such a cool hobby. And Adam is brave!

  6. A happy and helpful post! Thank you so much.


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