Monday, July 14, 2014

Update on the Bees

I just got back from the last of the three Summer camps I was signed up for and thought it would be a good time to update my blog.  

Heading off to summer camp

Here is what has been happening with my bees:

I expanded from 2 to 4 colonies this year.  Both of the colonies I overwintered made it.  Now that I have 4 colonies it is harder to remember what I'm doing with each one and keep track of what I need to do.  I decided to number my colonies so I can keep better track.  I numbered them 1 to 4.  Colonies 1 and 2 are the two that made it through the winter.  Colony # 3 is a new colony I created by dividing Colony 1 and buying a new Queen for it.  Colony #4 is the new colony from the 3 lb package of bees I got from Mann Lake.  Dad helped me expand the bee yard so we could fit the two additional colonies of bees and keep the bears out.

Colony 1 Update
The colony made it through the winter.  Last year it didn't do as well as colony #2 so I wasn't sure if it would make it.  The bees in this colony didn't produce much surplus honey but they made enough to get them through the winter.  They really grew fast this spring and it became my best hive.  Because it grew so well, my dad and I made a divide from it in early May.   You divide a colony to keep them from swarming.  Bees swarm when they are doing well and when they run out of space in their colony.  It is how they naturally reproduce.  I want to keep them from swarming because when they swarm about half of the bees and the queen will leave the colony.  The original colony makes a new queen and then it continues to grow.  The problem with swarming is that it takes time to raise a new queen and when you loose a lot of bees they can't make honey as fast.  If I let them swarm I will end up with less honey in the end.  

I think I did the divide a week or two before I should have.  I guess you are supposed to divide about the time that the apple tree blossoms start coming out.  I think it would have worked better if I had waited a little longer because I didn't have at least 8 full frames of bees when I divided them like you are supposed to.

Can you find the queen in this picture?

Colony 2 Update
This was my strongest colony last year and I was able to get about 6 supers worth of honey from them to sell.  The colony also made it through the winter.  This colony has not done well this year and it might die off.  As of Sunday, July 13th it was down to a little over 1 frame of bees and that probably won't be enough to keep them going.  The queen in this colony I think failed.  She just stopped laying eggs and the other workers in the colony didn't figure that out quick enough to raise a new queen.  In late June when I checked on them I couldn't find the queen.  It was just a bunch of worker bees.  I moved a frame with a couple of queen cells on it from Colony 1 to hopefully replace the queen they lost.  On the July 13th checkup there is now a new queen in the colony and hopefully she will be able to get them going again.  Hopefully they can build up enough that I could combine them with a stronger colony later this year.
Me showing the bees in colony 2 to one of Cole's friends

Colony 3 Update
This colony came from the divide I made from colony 1.  It has a new queen we got from Nature's Nectar.  As of July 13th, it is still in a single deep box and has about 4-5 full frames of bees in it.  It isn't growing as fast as I would like it to.  Hopefully the queen in that colony will get busy and make a lot more bees.  It is doing about the same as the 2nd colony I had last year where it wasn't doing well and then it just took off.  If that doesn't happen I might add some more frames of brood from colony #4 to kick start them.

Working on colony 3

Colony 4 Update
This is a new colony from a 3 lb package of Italian bees I got from Mann Lake mid-May.  They are really doing good.  The colony has 3 deep boxes and 4 supers on it.  It has lots and lots of bees and they are bringing in lots of nectar.

Checking out colony 4