Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Keeping Track of the Hives
I've numbered them for my own records. This blog serves various purposes, one of which is to help keep a record of family events and information.
#1, the large Lanstroth, is the biggest hive we brought with us when we moved here. It survived the 2012/13 winter. It used to be the strong hive from which Adam would split new hives.
#2, the tall Warre hive, is the other hive we brought with us from the mountains. It survived the 2012/13 winter.
After the 2013/14 winter, we had only those two hives remaining. In spring of 2014 we brought those two hives to our yard in Oriental.
#3 is a swarm hive we captured in summer of 2014. Adam is transitioning it into Langstroth boxes.
#4 is a split from #1, and it barely survived the 2014/15 winter. However, this hive has come back with a vigor. It is now our hive from which Adam does new splits.
#5 is the first split done in the spring of 2015. It was a split from the large Langstroth and was originally put into the small nuc box (#8). On 4/13/2015 Adam transferred these bees into this larger Langstroth 8-frame hive.
#6 is a swarm we captured on April 1, 2015. The swarm came from #4. Adam "won" the earliest swarm on one of his beekeeping online forums in 2015 :)
#7 is a split from #4, also done on April 1, 2015. #4 was so packed full of bees, Adam was able to pull both a swarm and a split from it, the same day.
(Update: In the afternoon, Adam looked inside this hive and found only about 100 bees in the bottom of the box, dead. The brood had been abandoned. All we can figure is that there were not enough bees in this split to keep the box warm enough for the brood to survive on some of the cooler nights of early April. He'll start this split again now that the weather is warmer.)
#8 is a new split from #4, done on April 13, 2015, after the nuc box was emptied into the new #5 boxes.
Adam had to start a new bee table for #8. We ought to move #6 over there soon too, so we don't stack our hives. That first bee table is carrying a lot of weight. Adam briefly considered moving #4 to the new table in the middle of the day, and putting a much smaller, weaker hive in its location, so that when its worker bees returned during the day they would build up the numbers of the weaker hive. However, because #4 is such a gang-buster strong hive, and the queen apparently is a brood-laying machine, he decided to keep it where it is. It is very useful as a hive from which to make splits, as we've seen already this spring.
We've never had so many hives before! It's very exciting. Unlike other livestock (if you can call bees "livestock") bees can be left alone at home for days on end, even weeks, without tending. They don't have to be fed or milked. They go in and out on their own, feed themselves, clean themselves, dispose of their own dead, and defend themselves. You can have thousands of dollars worth of bees in your yard, go away for a week, and nobody will touch them - haha! What else can you say that about?
You may wonder why #4 is such a big producer right now, but #1 and #2 are not. They are also full of bees, but they have lots of room. Because they have so many boxes, and so much space, they are not tempted to swarm, and their boxes are not packed full of bees like #4. The compact nature of #4 makes it perfect for splitting. Because it's crowded, #4 is always preparing to swarm. Thus, the queen lays lots of babies to populate swarms, and there are always new queen cells in the making to go with those swarms. Adam plans to utilize this swarm-tendency for splitting new hives this summer. We've doubled our bee hives in just a month! That's exciting!
By the way -- if Adam wanted to produce and sell honey, he would have lots of big hives like #1 and #2. But he doesn't. Honey production is labor intensive for the cash return. Instead, Adam wants to sell bees and queens. For that (as I've shown), smaller, compact hives are useful. So we'll have lots of smaller hives. Splitting them and making new hives is as easy as transferring a few frames of brood, honey, and bees into a new box. As long as we buy lumber, and he builds (and I paint) boxes, he can produce more bees. That's what he wants to sell.
Did you notice the new paint up there? The darker red boxes are ones I painted this past weekend. We made five of those. Eventually they'll all be red Langstroths of various widths -- 4-frame nuc boxes, and 5-, 6-, or 8-frame boxes for regular hives. Adam plans to use his old Warre boxes as breeding boxes for his queens and drones. He has plans to create a whole breeding stock with specific characteristics. That man! He always has plans.