Posts Tagged ‘top-bar hive maintenance’

It’s been quite a while since I last posted.  At that time it appeared that both queens had made it through the winter.  Unfortunately the older queen wasn’t able to handle the drastic warm/cold swings of our spring weather here.  I just added her bees to the remaining hive and hoped for the best.  The queen in the surviving hive was one that the worker bees “created” last year. It’s called “re-queening” and you can learn more about that here. She is now half-New Mexican. I am trying to develop a number of truly local queens for my hives.  Most beekeepers order their queens from California or Texas but I want bees that have local genetics and can handle the challenging conditions here in the high-desert lands.  It’s been interesting following the progress of this colony. She is a large and strong queen but has not been a heavy egg producer.  The hive is growing slowly but steadily.  I have been checking in on their progress every week.  They have filled up most of the combs with brood ( and some honey ) to the point where I decided to add another empty bar for them to expand in to.

Adding new bar

If they get too crowded, they will begin to create another queen and swarm. Notice too, I have a backer board at the end of the bars.  This creates a confined space for the hive. As I add bars, I move the board back until they fill the entire box.  This way the bees are able to control the temperature and humidity in the hive.  It’s been very dry these past couple months and although there is still pollen out there, there will be a lot more food once the mid-summer rains begin. I’m beginning to think this queen is responding well to this condition…. not over-producing brood when food supplies are low.  It will be interesting to see if she speeds up production once the rains come.  In any case, all looks good for now!

( I just updated this post so that it would go out on FB )

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Here Les showed us  how the bee colony develops in the spring as pollen and nectar begins to appear.

Learning how the hive develops

A healthy queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day and if conditions are right, the beehive will begin to get full!   Soon the bees will realize that it’s getting too crowded and a large group of workers will swarm…. take the queen and fly off  to look for a new home.  This can be in the form of a hollow tree , log or an attic space or inside the walls of a house (not good)   The swarm will temporarily nest in branches , bushes, or under the eaves of a house while workers scout for suitable permanent sites. A queen will take about a third of the bees with her. You will lose your queen ( also not good)  So what should the beekeeper do?  Answer:  Split the hive before this happens. Let’s check out the hive and see how it’s doing.

Checking the hive

The first signs of a potential swarm is the formation of lots of drone cells.  The only function of drones is to mate with a virgin queen, so having  a large number of them indicates that the workers are planning to rear some new queens to replace the one that might be leaving the crowded hive.  You can identify drone comb by the fact that they bulge out more on the top than worker cells.

Can you see all the drone cells?

Mmmm…lots of drone cells. The next thing to do is to see if there are any queen cell cups around.  These are easily recognizable due to their large size….they look like a large peanut.  Look in the cell to see if there is an egg or larva in it. It takes 16 days for a queen to develop from egg to adult. Here is a part of the hive with a queen cup on it.

Queen cup on the comb

Making a divide

We ended up finding a number of queen cups in various stages of development, so…it looked like the bees were getting ready to swarm.  We took out a number of comb containing the queen cells and drone cells and put it in an empty hive along with a number of workers. A new queen will hatch out soon    ( the first queen to emerge will immediately go around and kill off the other developing queens… there’s only room for one queen , honey! ) and the colony will have room to grow without swarming.  Now you have two hives and will soon have double the number of bees.

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