Category Archives: A Tale of Two Hives

Following the progress of two hives created from package bees

Tale of two hives – June 1 update

We’re almost at the two month mark since the two package hives were installed (see all the Tale of Two Hives posts). I took a look at the hives yesterday and below is what I found.

Hive #1
This hive is moving right along. It has now been a little over two weeks, since I added the second brood box with ten frames containing wax foundation. These new frames are close to being all drawn out, there are only about two frames that are not drawn and a couple of more that are incompletely drawn. This hive is very close to needing a new hive body, which will be a honey super. Continue reading

Tale of two hives – about six weeks after new packages being installed

It has now been about six weeks since the hives have been installed. The progress of the hives has been slowed by the queen problems in hive#2 and the movement of frames of capped brood from hive #1 into hive #2. But things have now stabilized and both hives should now progress into two story hives, which is my immediate goals for these hives.

Hive #1
Hive #1’s bottom hive body today contains six frames of capped brood and two additional frames with a combination of eggs and larvae. The rest of the frames in this box (which is the original box the package bees were installed in) are either drawn or almost drawn. A week ago I added a second hive body to hive #1. In the last few days the bees have almost completely drawn three frames of foundation in this box. Continue reading

Tale of two hives – Report from May 5th

Checking the hives – May 5 (posted on May 22nd)
Note: I have gotten behind on writting posts recently and am inserting this Report from May 5th on May 23rd.
It has now been about one month since I installed our two 3 pound packages of bees in their hives. At the two week mark I was seeing a lot of drawn comb, nectar and/or sugar syrup (since we had feeders on, it’s hard to tell the difference), stored pollen, eggs, and larvae. I was also seeing more bees and drawn comb in hive #1, than in hive #2. (hive #2 has had difficulties). At the one month mark I’m seeing all of the above, plus capped brood (pupae). During today’s inspection of the hive I observed five frames containing larvae or capped brood or a combination of the two. This hive is progressing very well and will soon be ready for another brood box. In fact, it is doing so well that on a couple of occasions I have removed frames containing eggs and larvae and placed those frames in hive #2, to boost this hive which has experienced queen problems.

I have discovered that hive #2 is queenless and I am in the process of obtaining another queen for the hive. In the meantime I have moved two frames containing capped brood and larvae from hive #1 to hive #2 to maintain the population of hive #2.

A special thanks to Jim Coss of The Honey & Bee Connection, who provided the package bees and hives for this series of posts!

Most of the photos are by my friend Mary Carney who is donating her time and camera skills for pictures in this and future posts.

Nine frames or ten in the brood box?

I am often asked whether to use nine or ten frames in brood boxes. The answer is up to you, but here are my thoughts.

Conventional beekeeping boxes are designed for ten frames, which allows for the bee space (about 1/4”) between the combs when they are drawn out. Bee space is the largest gap that bees will leave as open space without trying to fill it with unwanted comb. I have often seen hives where the bee space has been violated, and the bees built an extra comb, often attaching two adjacent frames. It is messing with Mother Nature when we push the envelope on bee space, but beekeepers love to be innovative (or sloppy – I’m a sloppy old stick in the mud myself), so we push this limit all the time.

Fortunately, there is some wiggle room in the bee space concept. If we only remove one frame in the brood box and go to nine, keeping the remaining frames evenly spaced, the violation of the bee space is so slight that we can get by with it most of the time. Some beekeepers prefer to use nine frames because it leaves more room between the combs, making it easier to remove and replace frames.

However, it is important to ALWAYS keep these nine frames evenly spaced and ALWAYS, when starting brood boxes with frames containing new foundation, start with ten frames. If you wish to use nine ultimately, remove one when the comb on nine or ten of them has been drawn out. If you start with nine, the bees will often build that layer of extraneous comb right away.

Brood comb – a result of too much space between frames

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Hives: Following the progress of two new hives created from package bees – Post 6

Checking the hives, two week after installation
It has now been two weeks since I installed our two 3 pound packages of bees in their hives. Last week, at the one week mark, I was seeing drawn comb, nectar and/or sugar syrup (since we had feeders on, it’s hard to tell the difference), stored pollen, eggs, and larvae. I was also seeing more bees and drawn comb in hive #1, than in hive #2.

Today things in the hives appear to be progressing normally. There are more larvae (due to more eggs hatching since last week) and now I am seeing pupae (capped brood) as larvae from last week are maturing. To review the lifecycle of developing worker bees: eggs hatch about three days after being laid and start the development into larvae; larvae start to change into pupae about 5.5 days later (so about 8.5 days after being laid); and the bees will cap the cells about day nine after the eggs are laid.

There is more drawn comb in our hives and more brood in various stages of development. Obviously,there will not be an increase in the bee population until significant number of new bees start to emerge in a few weeks.

Newly drawn comb, honey and pollen

In the above photo, note the pattern of Continue reading

A Tale of Two Hives: Lighting and Using Your Smoker – Post 5

At some point when preparing to look in a new beekeeper’s hive, I always say, “Go ahead and light your smoker.” I often hear – even from people who have had bees for a year or more – “I always have trouble with that” or, “I can’t keep it lit.” Then we have a smoker lesson. This post will be our smoker lesson.

First step: lighting the smoker. Start by lighting the smoker when it is almost empty; do not try to light one full of fuel. I wad up a piece of newspaper (about one forth of a double page sheet), place it in the bottom of the smoker, and use a large kitchen match to light the paper. Then I place another, similar size piece of paper on top of the lit one. The hive tool is handy for moving lit materials around inside the smoker. Next, I add my starter fuel – in this case, wood chips. I sprinkle a handful  on top of the lit paper. (If you just dump them in, the flaming paper may go out.) I wait a minute, to let the wood chips ignite, then Continue reading

A beekeeper asks: New hive, when to install a second box and honey super? Do I keep feeding? Medications?

I installed my package last week. I have just one deep hive with a top feeder. When do I put on more hive sections and supers? Do I keep feeding? Do I need to medicate?

Let them draw out about 7-8 frames in the first deep brood box, then add the 2nd brood box. After they draw out 7-8 frames in the second brood box you can add a honey super.

See my earlier posts on medicating & feeding. I do recommend the feeding of ½ gallon to 1 gallon of sugar syrup containing the antibiotic fumagillin. I recommend no other medications at this time. I’ll discuss other disease and pest issues in future posts.

Keep feeding as long as they will take syrup while drawing out the brood frames. However, I’m finding they are not taking syrup as readily as in past years due to the VERY strong nectar flow we are having.

But once you add a honey super you must stop feeding sugar syrup. You only want pure nectar in the honey super frames; sugar syrup does not become honey.

A Tale of Two Hives: Following the progress of two new hives created from package bees – post 4

Checking the hives, one week after installation
It has now been one full week since I installed the two new packages of bees in their new homes in my apiary. Until today, I have been cautious about removing frames from the hives and disturbing the new colonies. This is because of the presence of young queens and the disruption to the bees that occurred during their transportation and introduction into the hive. In circumstances like these, bees will sometimes enclose the queen in a “ball” of bees, killing her in the process. This behavior of “balling the queen” is not well understood, but sometimes occurs in times of stress in honey bee colonies. This is why I leave the bees alone, with the exception of removing the queen cage and replenishing sugar syrup supplies, in the first week after installing the new package. I apply the same one week moratorium when re-queening hives or setting up nucs.

I start my examination with hive #1. Hive #1 is the hive where I found the queen dead in her cage before I installed the package (see previous posts in this series), and subsequently found another queen in that hive, which had been loose in the package with the bees all along. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Hives: Following the progress of two new hives created from package bees – post 3

Checking on the queens in the new hives
It has been three days since I installed the new package bees in their hives. Now is the time to check and see if the queens have been released. I light the smoker first, though newly installed bees from packages are normally pretty docile. It is my policy to go ahead and light the smoker before opening hives, so as to prevent having to go back and light it after discovering that the bees are agitated.

First I check hive #2, this is the hive in which I installed the queen that was alive. (While installing the package in hive #1, I discovered a problem – see post #2.) The queen cage in hive#2 is empty, so she is out. I make no attempt to look for the queen. I remove the empty queen cage, push the frames back together and close the hive back up. I’ll leave them alone until Sunday, which will be one week after installation.

Queen cage, empty, candy plug eaten out by bees

Now I proceed to hive #1. You might wonder why I am checking a hive where I know that the queen is dead. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Hives: Following the progress of two new hives created from package bees – post 2

Installation of the new packages
On Saturday, April 7th, I picked up two, 3 pound packages of honey bees from The Honey & Bee Connection, in Morehead, Kentucky. I would like to thank Jim Coss, owner and proprietor of The Honey and Bee Connection, for making this series of posts possible by providing the bees and equipment. (For more information on this series see post 1). I arrived home from Morehead late in the day, tired and still suffering from jet lag after my return from Asia, and decided to postpone installation of the new packages until the next day. While it is important to install  packages as soon as possible, a one day delay is not a problem, especially since I knew that these bees had been shaken into the packages no earlier than Thursday. If bad weather had ensued, I would not have hesitated to wait even another day to get the packages into hives. Upon arriving home, I placed them in a dry, unheated, but not cold room in my house, where I knew the temperatures would remain in the 50s to low 60s – ideal holding temperatures for the packages. I also dug out a CLEAN spray bottle, filled it with 1:1 sugar syrup (though 2:1 syrup would work as well) and sprayed some on the sides of the screen package. Though each package contains a can of sugar syrup which the bees can access, it is a good idea to supplement this food. But do not spray the package so much that the bees get wet with the syrup. You’ll see the bees stick their proboscises (tongues) through the screen to suck up the syrup. After they have taken an application of syrup, you can spray some more on every few hours or 2-3 times a day as long as you don’t wet the bees down. Other than that, I just left them alone until the next day. Continue reading