Natural History Notes

Thursday, March 22, 2012

bee multiplication

Sunday 18 March
10am 70° cloudy light breeze

Kay and I split the beehive last Monday. We left two medium 10-frame boxes on the old stand. The bottom box is fairly empty - they have never built much on several of those frames. As soon as I figure they have their queen going (I’m pretty sure the queen went with the new hive) I will remove that box, put the upper, which is a new-built one, in its place, and put on the former original deep, cut down, on top. Then I think I have at least one more 10-frame box in pieces to build for a super before I have to use one of the old ratty ones again.

The new hive on its cedar stand by the front fence looks quite nice. It has two 8-frame mediums with lots of nurse bees and brood, and a few foragers were kept by the branch-in-front trick. The inner cover is on the second box, then I have the half-gallon food jar surrounded by a third story. Just a makeshift cover for now, with plans for a nifty breezeway cover.

By Thursday they had taken well over half the food, and I refilled it. During the latter part of the week there seemed to be about 20 bees per minute foraging. Just now, however, I counted 100 over two minutes, and they included quite a few carrying pollen. So I believe that the foraging force is recruiting maturing bees as I hoped, bees to whom this is the home place and that other hive in the back yard means nothing. There are over 100 bees per minute active at the old hive, and I trust the new one will be up to that in a week or two.

We put quite a lot of frames of brood in this new hive. I didn’t have the camera going to keep a record, though. Kay lifted the 2nd and 3rd stories (both 8-frame) of the old hive over to the cart as a unit, with me frantically breaking off the lightweight almost empty frame from the bottom box that stuck. When we saw how empty the bottom box was, we put some of the brood frames, including one with queen cells, back from the being-moved boxes to the 10-frame that was going to stay. So I don’t really have a sense of just how many bees we moved. Photos from last Thursday show bees active on the tops of only two frames at the top of the new hive. But I think the lower box is pretty full, and probably has the queen. As soon as there is activity on five of the frames, time to give them another box. Probably just put a super with plastic foundation on top, not go into the lower hive.

Meanwhile, the photos show activity on about 8 of the 10 frames on top of the old hive. But I know that all the bees are up there, not down below.I am trusting that they are busy raising a queen, and thus not moved to swarm, even though that top box is so full. As soon as I think it’s safe for the queen, though, I need to get them down in the bottom box, with some nice empty frames to work on down there, but not so empty as at present. Though maybe a new queen will start setting up house down there. Perhaps I should give her a week or 10 days, to see. That would mean working the hive ... if she was already in a queen cell, she should be out now, or this week ... another week to mature, a week to mate and start laying ... maybe wait till April 4th or 5th. Or maybe do it while Amy’s here -- April 2nd?


Old hive had one half gallon on starting on Tuesday after I got back from Massachusetts - the 6th. Still only 1/4 drunk on the next Monday the 12th. After the split they started drinking it up. Replaced on Wednesday Mar 14 and again Sunday Mar 18.

New hive given 1/2 gallon on Monday afternoon when set up. Filled it up - maybe 2/3 empty - on Thursday Mar 15. Discovered empty Monday morning (19th) and replaced.

So in a week the new hive has eaten about 7 pints, and the old 9 pints. Syrup is between 1:1 and 1.5:1.

Update 21 March -- Old hive emptied their Sunday bottle by Wednesday morning, replaced Wednesday evening.