Today was a bit crazy in the bee yard. We thought we were going to remove the Hop Guard III strips from our two queenright hives, maybe harvest some honey from our queenless split, and maybe check to see if the nuc had a new virgin queen yet. What we ended up doing was going from three hives and a nuc to six hives and two nucs. Let me explain...
Our queenright hive with our older white queen looked pretty swarmy when we got into her to bolster the nuc and queenless hives with a frame of open brood and eggs just in case they hadn't made a new queen. So, we pulled some swarm cells and placed them in another nuc and gave her more space by adding a 4th box. (Hive 1: White Queen: D1 = White, D2 = Tan/Wood, D3 = Green, D4 = White + Nuc 1 = Green Nuc + Nuc 2 = Tan Nuc)
While we were doing that, our "queenless" split from last check swarmed. We hypothesized that they were feeling overcrowded and had swarmed with a virgin queen. Fortunately, the swarm bivouacked low on a post of the Project Grow Garden and we were able to recapture it. We even saw what appeared to be a mated queen with the swarm. So, then we had the original "queenless" split who was queenless once again, and the swarm from it. We stuffed some grass in the entrance of the swarm so that they stay in that hive and don't try to find another home. (Hive 3: Queenless Split: D1 = White, Queen Excluder, New Flow Super + Hive 4: Swarm: D1 = Green, D2 = White)
Once we rehoused the swarm, we thought the rest of the check would go smoothly, but once again, the bees had other ideas. Our younger yellow queen had also decided that she might swarm on us despite already having 4 boxes, and those bees had made a bunch of swarm cells, so we ended up splitting that hive into three hives. We moved the queen to a new location in the bee yard and gave her an extra box. Next to her, we put one of the other boxes with some open queen cells. In her old location, we left a box with some open queen cells and the Flow Super. (Hive 2: Yellow Queen: D1 = White, D2 = White + Hive 5: Queenless Yellow Queen Split: D1 = White + Hive 6: Queenless Yellow Queen Split: D1 = Green, No Queen Excluder Right Now, Old Flow Hive Super)
Needless to say, our bees were busy making more bees instead of honey, so no harvest today.
As we were leaving the bee yard, one of the teaching apiary hives swarmed, but bivouacked about 30ft up in a pine tree where we couldn't get at it. In light of so many swarms, we set up 2 swarm traps in the apiary on the off chance that they will catch any further swarms within the bee yard.
Just to make things more complicated:
Stand #1: Closest to the Project Grow Garden/Farthest West = Hive 5 + Hive 2
Stand #2: Next Metal Stand = Hive 1 + Hive 4
Stand #3: Wooden Stand = Hive 3 + Nuc 2 + Nuc 1
Stand #4: Single Metal Stand = Hive 6
Just to make things even more complicated:
White Queen and descendants = Hive 1, Hive 3, Hive 4, Nuc 1, Nuc 2
Yellow Queen and descendants = Hive 2, Hive 5, Hive 6
Our next exciting check will be Saturday, June 3rd, at 10:00am in the A2B2 Teaching Apiary at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
Hope you can bee there!
Sorry I fell a little behind in the goings on with the A2B2 Flow Hives, but here's an update on two checks for the price of one.
April 15th: We checked to see if both hives were bringing in pollen (they were), removed the wraps, mouse guards, and quilt boxes (de-winterized), and placed an extra box filled with drawn comb frames on each hive to give the bees more space and to prevent swarming. We also provided both hives with top feeders of 1:1 sugar syrup just in case the weather stayed crumby and they were unable to forage adequate nectar.
May 7th: SPLIT DAY!!! At this check we removed the feeders (which still had plenty of syrup in them), removed the extra boxes, split the hive with our more mature 2021 queen in it, made a nuc from that hive as well, added the Flow Hive Supers to the unsplit hive with our 2022 queen and to the queenless split, and treated the unsplit 2022 hive and the split with the 2021 queen with Hop Guard III to knock down our Varroa mite levels. Did you get all that?
Basically we left the hive with our 2022 queen alone except for treating it with Hop Guard III and adding the Flow Hive Super above a queen excluder. We are hoping that this younger queen will not swarm and that her 3 deeps of bees will make us tons of honey this year.
We are lucky that we got to our 2021 queen's hive when we did because even with the extra space that hive was boiling over with bees and had tons of queen cells! She was maybe only hours from swarming!!! We were able to find the queen (helped by her being marked last year), and moved the queen and frames without any queen cells to a new location (still in the apiary). If we had left any queen cells, she may still have swarmed on us. We also treated this hive for Varroa mites with Hop Guard III.
In the old location we left some of the queen cells in a new hive and plenty of bees to raise a new queen. This new hive didn't need mite treatment because in the close to a month it will be without a laying queen there will be a nice brood break and without brood, the mites cannot reproduce. We placed a Flow Super on this hive because even though there are far fewer bees in it, these bees won't have any brood to tend until the new queen is mated, so the only task available for them right now is to make honey!
There were so many queen cells in the 2021 hive that we placed some capped queen cells into a nuc as insurance against the 2022 hive swarming or the 2021 queenless hive failing to produce a mated queen. Now there's no guarantee that the nuc will produce a mated queen either, but we've at least doubled our chances to get a new 2023 queen. We also didn't have to treat the nuc for mites because it is currently in the same queenless condition as the queenless 2021 hive, so will also get a natural mite treatment in the form of a brood break.
Since our hives are so tall, we are also lowering their stand to make them easier to work. They are all on temporary stands right now.
Hopefully at our next check we will already be harvesting honey!
When: Sunday, May 21st, 10am
Where: The A2B2 Teaching Apiary next to the Project Grow Garden at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
What is a Flow Hive?
A Flow Hive is a Langstroth-style hive system with plastic frames which allow honey to be harvested directly from the hive. www.honeyflow.com/pages/how-flow-works