Sunday, March 28, 2010


We visited the hive today with the goal of swapping the two main bodies.  Bees tend to move up the hive and we want them to stay low when the queen starts to form brood and work up through the season.  This will also help to keep the brood cells low so that the "Supers" on top are only used for honey storage (and hopefully harvesting by us!)

We first removed the one Super we had on the hive.  Last summer we had put it on with a queen excluder between it and the 2 hive bodies.  The excluder is to keep the queen from laying brood in the Super but it seemed to keep all of the bees from doing anything up there.  We eventually removed the queen excluder but they still never really showed any interest.  We are removing it now until later in the summer.  After it was off we used the hive tool to unstick the hive bodies and lifted the top one off.  I was very surprised how many bees were around and how heavy the top body was.  It was obviously very full of honey still and it really looks like our bees did a good job getting through the winter as their numbers are high even though it's doubtful any new brood has emerged yet this year. 

The lower hive body was much lighter as we swapped their positions.  It was about 56 degrees and the bees were very active.  We didn't smoke them and they really seemed to be annoyed at us, flying into our masks all of the time and landing on us quite often.  We really were not set to inspect the individual frames without the smoker going so we'll leave that to later.  The bees also would not leave the Super we took off so we left it sitting by the hive hoping they'll leave by the next few days when we come back.

All in all we think our hive is going to do good this year.  Their number are good already and things have not even started blooming.  When we installed them last year most of the fruit trees had already passed their blooming.  We hope that our friends will see better fruit production this year as a result. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


It had been over 6 months since we last checked on our bees.  We did no winter preparation for them, no providing of supplemental food beyond in April when we first installed them, and really took mostly a hands off approach.  This winter then was one of the coldest and snowiest we've had in years.  Other colleagues we've talked to with hives have said that none of theirs have made it through the winter.  So when we were finally able to get out to the hive yesterday our hopes were not high.  We were already planning to have to order new bees.

But.....  when we took the top cover off we saw movement, there was a bee walking around in there.  Removing the top super we saw that the bees were still there and alive!  We're sure their number are down as would be expected, but there is at least a core of them there.

On our trip we were really not expecting to find live bees, so much that we didn't even bring our hive tool along.  As such we really couldn't look too closely at the frames to see how much honey they still have available or to see if the queen was still around.  We did have a bag a sugar we thought about giving them for food but then decided against it.

The author of another blog I read frequently seems to always be feeding her bees.  I understand when you install a hive the need to do that as they have nothing to eat from the trip.  But bees are wild creatures who have lived for centuries without human help; including over wintering year after year.  We'd like our bees to be as natural as possible and to me feeding them is not natural.  Just like bears, raccoons and other wildlife can become habituated to being feed, perhaps this can also happen to bees and make their colony actually weaker if provided a food source rather then having to seek it out for themselves.

I could be way wrong on those assertions but it is something we are going to try and follow with our bees with keeping it as natural as possible.  I will admit that for my wife's observation hive in her office she does provide some food during winter.  It is only a 4 frame hive though so there is no way for them to store up enough honey for the winter.  During the summer as they fill a frame with honey she removes it and sticks it in the freezer, then during the winter as needed she give them back the same honey they had created earlier in the year by swapping out frames.

OH, one more thing I forgot to mention.  It was only 45 degrees out so we didn't expect to see much flying from the bees but a few did come out when we opened up the hive.  During winter bees hold in their poop for long periods of time and then do "cleansing flights" when it's actually warm enough to go fly.  Often if there is snow around a hive you may see yellow or orange drops around the hive entrance from this.  Well, my wife noticed that one of the bees that came out to fly pooped right in front of her.  Then when we got to the van I noticed something orange on her face.  Yep, the bee got her with poop!  The funny thing was that while walking back up my wife kept thinking she smelled apricots.  Sure enough it was the poop and there are apricot trees around the hive and I bet the honey they produced has a apricot flavor to it.