Sunday, May 18, 2008

State of the Hives: Mid-May

My vow of waiting for two weeks before I opened the hives again fell a day short yesterday (Saturday) morning. I just couldn't wait to see what was happening. I had observed so much activity outside the hives now that things are coming into full bloom, I had to get the inside scoop.

I had two boxes of frames with foundation ready to put on any hive that might need the room, and I was hopeful that I might need to use both of them somewhere.

So, here's the rundown:

Hive 1: I had taken the queen excluder off this hive so the bees would have a better chance of migrating up into the third box. It looks like that's exactly what they are doing. There is honey in that third box, but they still have a long way to go before they will need a fourth. The population seems to be strong, and things look good.

Hive 2: As with Hive 1, I took the queen excluder off a couple of weeks ago, and there is some evidence that the bees have discovered the top (fourth) box, but they are still drawing out comb and haven't stored any honey there yet. That was disappointing but not too surprising given that this hive was probably the source of the big swarm I had in late April. Still, there are plenty of bees in this hive, and we're only in mid-May, so hope lives that this hive will be productive.

Hive 3: This first swarm hive is still drawing comb and trying to increase its population. It seems to have the smallest number of bees of any hive, undoubtedly because it was built with a fairly small swarm to begin with. The bees are staying in the top box of this two-box hive., and they have done almost nothing with the bottom box. There won't be any honey from these guys this year, and the best we can hope for is that they increase their numbers throughout the summer. I am keeping the feeders on them with the hope that they will stay in the hive, draw comb and make baby bees.

Hive 4: This hive is the nuc that I bought from Coley O'Dell with the deep brood box at the bottom and a medium super on top of that. This hive has increased its population, but there is still a lot for them to do in the brood box, and unlike Hive 3, they show no inclination just yet of going upstairs into the second box. So, no need for another box of frames for these guys just yet. I will keep feeding them, too, and hopeing for a population explosion soon.

Hive 5: This hive came from the second swarm (which was much larger than the first), and these guys have been busy from the first day. I found that both boxes have been well drawn out with comb, and they are putting honey (fully capped) into some of the frames on the second box. In other words, they're doing great. Unfortunately, the honey is sugar-water honey because I had been feeding them heavily, even though they have show great inclination to leave the hive. Given all of this, I had a decision: I placed a third box of frames on the hive and took off the feeds. Any honey they put in that third box will be real, honest-to-goodness honey. They look like they're ready. We'll give them another couple of weeks.

So, it was not what I had hoped for in terms of production but not really very surprising considering where the bees have come from. If it keeps raining and the flowers keep blooming, the bees should have a very productive month. I looked at the hives again this afternoon and noticed, particularly in Hive 1, a lot of bees flying into the hive loaded with honey.

We'll see how long I can stay away from them this time. Meanwhile, I need to put some foundation in some frames and paint a couple of more boxes.

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