Friday, June 26, 2009

First Summer Inspection

Did my first summer inspection today, I guess the first day of summer was just a few days ago, oh well.

I do tend to have a bit of a hands off approach when it comes to beekeeping, I'm not the type of guy to inspect his hives every week. I tend to go a month or more between inspections. Hopefully that will change this year as I now have a handful of hives that should be able to be consistently producing throughout the summer.

The year in recapitulation: This spring I started with four hives. One hive is the one that I bought as a nuc from Dixie two years ago when I lived in Springdale. Three hives came from the five I transported from Oregon. One of those was a standard size cell never treated hive that was given to me. In May or so, I received two more nucs from Dixie, this time in deep frames (thanks Don.) I had intended to do inspections and work the hives before I left for Honduras the second week of June, but at the end of the day, I just didn't have enough time so I just stuck boxes of foundation on the top of the single deep box of each hive. I had also split the hive originally purchased and gave the new hive five frames of brood and the queen. I also put a single deep on top of this hive before I left.

As I was writing below, I realized I needed a documentation system, so here goes.

Hive # Description
1 Originally purchased from Dixie in 2007 currently housed in a doublewide
2 Split from #1, contains queen from #1, five frames of brood. Added box foundation June 8
3 Hive from Oregon, barely survived winter, winner best performance so far this year
4 Gifted Oregon hive, housed in doublewide
5 Purchased this year from Dixie, hived in one box, deep added June 8
6 Purchased this year from Dixie, hived in one box, deep added June 8
7 From Oregon, acceptable performance, now in 4 deeps.

Forward to today.

Started by inspecting one of the Oregon hives. It looked ok, nothing special though.

Then moved on to one of the new hives. I popped the top and realized immediately that it was time for another box, and keep in mind, this box had been on there for about 2.5 weeks or so. So I went and got the gear I needed and came back and started to take the hive apart to insert frames in key places. My rule of thumb for today ended up being the following. In each hive, I took the bottom two boxes and mixed in an empty box of foundation. Two frames in the bottom box and four frames in each of the next two with the new box comprising the third box up and containing the displaced frames from the lower two and the four new foundation frames. I did this on each of the hives except the two doublewides which I will explain later. That same manipulation was done on each of the new hives and the split from the original purchased hive.

Hive three is doing very well with a packed out top deep. I added a new deep at position 3 with foundation 2-4-4, I'm going to need to harvest this one soon, I don't want them to swarm.

Hives 1 and 2 are a special case. 2 was started from one, and seems to be doing fantastically. 1 is queenless with laying workers, so I took two frames with some brood including eggs from 2 and put it in 1, we'll see if it survives. If not, 2 will become 1 again since the hives will be merged. If that happens, I just need to time it right so that when 1 dies, it won't get robbed out because it has alot of uncapped honey. I think maybe I should have left more brood with eggs in 1, I may have taken too many. 2 did start out quite well though.

The problem is, now with a number of hives doing quite well, I don't have enough boxes to complete the configuration. With seven hives on a 5 box unlimited broodnest configuration, I need the equivalent of 35 boxes of which I have 34. Fortunately I cancelled the three new queens from Dixie, decided to get on the top of the list for three nucs for next year. but I do still have the freshly made lids for those. If 1 fails, I will have what I need, but I would rather that it succeed. I do have seven boxes in the shop with nothing useful in them however. They need to be filled with the existing new frames I have and then the old frames need to be cleaned out and installed with new foundation until I have what I need.

One thing of note for all of today was that all of the hives were a bit feisty. I think I got stung at most of the hives, totalling around a dozen stings or so. I got several in my right wrist which is now swollen. It seemed that the bees needed excessive smoke to keep them occupied. This may be because it has not rained (beside yesterday) for approaching two weeks and it was getting kind of dry. Though there is plenty of clover on my property, the flowers may have been shutting down nectar production due to the dryness. This could have led to temperamental bees. The sting that hurt the most was on my knee, my pants have a hole there. I felt another bee climbing up my pants on my upper leg, so I waited until I knew exactly where she was and then hit her (and me) pretty hard with my hive tool. It hurt a bit, but succeeded in killing her without stinging me.

I need to order some bottling tools now that I know I have honey that needs harvesting.