April 04, 2010

Ahead of the Curve

2010 Spring Cleaning = 12 lbs. of Honey

A year ago today, we were installing our package bees. It's amazing how far ahead of the curve we are in this beekeeping season, having successfully overwintered a colony. Instead of feeding and keeping our fingers crossed that our 10,000 bees won't fly away, our queen has been laying eggs for weeks, if not months, and we already have what looks like thrice that many bees. Additionally, our colony benefited from having their hive inside a greenhouse. The few degrees of extra warmth enabled the queen to lay earlier than in a hive left out in the elements, which explains the incredible Spring build-up we're seeing. With a strong force already out foraging and returning to feed lots of developing brood, our worries this year turn to swarm prevention. Removing surplus honey was just the first step. Here's what else we did to Spring Clean.

Spring Inspection & Early Swarm Prevention
Click in the area under the caption to control the slideshow. The green arrow button will take you off-site:
The To-Do List:
1) remove entrance reducer: allows free-flying now that it's warm and nectar is flowing
2) look for queen cups: potentially a sign of swarm preparations
3) look for drones: they won't swarm without 'em
4) old combs out: good housekeeping (and an opportunity to Sugar Roll 'em)
5) move brood forward = reversing hive bodies

What's reversing hive bodies, you ask? It's a maneuver Langstroth beekeepers do in the Spring to get their bees to the bottom of their stack. Over the Winter, bees eat/move through the honey (up in a lang stack) and then they don't like to leave the nice clean combs. If they get to the very top of the stack, they might feel that the house is too small and start swarm preparations. So Lang keepers switch the (empty) bottom and (full) top hive bodies and their bees are set for the year ahead (sort of).

In a horizontal hive, the bees move backwards. They leave empty combs in the front, and if you time it right you can pull out combs that are dark or misshapen while still broodless. Then you push the nest area forward, give 'em fresh bars in the back, and the bees can start their annual migration anew. Nobody swarms and everybody's happy.

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