This week we went through the hives checking for space. We want to be sure our hives have enough room to grow but not so much space they are not able to defend it from other bees, ants, beetles, or wax moths. When the bees cover 6-7 frames in a box we add another box. When you have your two deeps (brood boxes) the next box to go on is your honey super.
If you see a hive that is a bit slow or low in numbers look through it until you see eggs. If you see no eggs or queen, you need a new queen. If you see multiple eggs in each cell you have a laying worker you will need a queen and to look into how to fix this issue. You can buy queens as you need, but I like to have one or two on hand. I do this by pulling a couple frames of bees with fresh eggs in spring and letting them make a queen. This will assure I’m getting genetics that survived a winter here and not something new. It won’t be ready for 21 or more days though, so keep this in mind. I also use the queen NUCS as donor NUCS to add brood and bees to weak hives. Also remember adding brood and eggs to a weak hive will not fix it. You need to have bees to cover the brood to keep it warm and tend it. Be sure to give a good shake of bees for every frame you add.
If you haven't finished the cycle of mite treatments then keep it going. You want them strong and booming for the rest of the season!
I sold a couple NUCS of bees the other day and was asked a couple questions I found interesting. First was why use smoke. I thought about this a bit. I will be first to tell you a mean or nasty hive will not live in my yard. I take pride in gentle bees and to be honest I hate a nasty hive! But to me the smoke isn't about that. I have found when tearing into any hive, nasty or not, a percentage of that hives job is to defend the hive. They will sting my coat and perish, I don't like this idea! I have found those same bees with a couple gentle puffs of a smoker will be far less active. It disorientates them just enough to let me help them and not send them into protection mode. It also masks the ALARM pheromones of the hive stopping the bees attack signal. Anyone who works bees has smelled the smell of a scared hive! This is why I smoke the hive. I find as long as I don't fumble things around the bees really don't mind the inspection and far less seem to die for no reason.
The other question was, “What's the most important things I need to know about caring for them?”. Well for me it would be to take care of the bees! Feed them in the spring, treat the mites twice a year (spring and fall), give them room to grow, let them keep the honey they need, (I like to winter in three boxes, two deeps, and a med), protect them from moisture and mice (buy a real mouse guard) in the winter and just let them be bees!
Things we should have set this week
- Treat hives that still need it. I give 4 treatments 5-7 days apart twice a year.
- Look at the hive to be sure they have space. Give them boxes as needed.
- If a hive is weak check the queen. If all is good add bees and brood needed to help the hive grow.
- You should only be feeding hives still that have empty frames to draw out still and have no honey supers on them.