Sunday was the tenth day after I received my nucs and I decided that I would inspect the hives.
Up to now the bees have been taking as much sugar water as I could give them. The top feeders took a total of 2 gallons for the two hives in the ten days and the front feeders lasted a day or two before they had to be refilled. The weather was generally cool in the 50s during the day and dropping down to the low 40s at night.
Saturday and Sunday went into the high 80s and it was hot. The bees seemed upset and many were hanging around outside the hive in clusters, cooling off I think.
I had made a 2-1/2 inch super for the plastic feeders and placed the telescoping top on that. I read where I wasn’t supposed to use the top board with the feeder. I decided that there was not enough circulation on a hot day so I put the top board on top of my mini-super and I think that in the warmer weather they will get better air circulation this way. Note: I took the top board out again because a few bees were able to find their way into the top feeder reservoir and drown.
When I take off the top I can see the bees crowding up to feed at the top feeder. This is encouraging. If they are taking in calories, it means that it is being converted to comb and brood and even honey. When I watch the front of the hives I can see bees that are heavy laden with pollen arriving every few seconds. I think the hive is doing well.
I did, however, want to peek inside. This is my first beekeeping experience and I can’t just ignore the bees. I want to learn what is happening.
I fired up the smoker – rule 1 with smokers is that a very little bit of fuel goes a long way. You only want a few puffs so why load up the smoker? I put some newspaper in lit and dropped in too much fuel and in a minute of puffing I had a good stream of smoke.
I puffed a little smoke at the hive entrance and then lifted the feeder and puffed a little into the hive. I was amazed at how the bees settled down. They had previously seemed to challenge me a little as lifted and banged around the hive, but they just seemed to calm down and cluster in the hive. I only used a few puffs for the whole process. It took about five minutes before the bees recovered.
I lifted some frames at either end. I had three new frames to the west and two to the east, with the five nuc frames in the center. The nuc frames were full of bees and I did not try to lift them. I did not want to damage the hive or upset the bees. The three frames to the west did not seem to have much activity other than some new comb on the side next to the nuc frame. The two frames on the other side had some light color comb drawn out on the side opposite the nuc frames and the other side had some new comb also. The end frame had some comb on the inside. The second hive was the same.
I did not get pictures as I did this alone. I should have brought the camera along and taken some pictures myself, but I did not want to drag this out. I only wanted a quick look.
I quickly covered the hive and after inspecting both I had the problem of putting out the smoker fuel. I had to scatter it in the driveway, where Erica couldn’t stand the smell and poured water on it. It was mostly dry a few hours later.
I will not open up the hives again for a while, except to pour sugar water into the top feeder, which does not seem to bother the bees.
When my bee package comes I want to remove a few frames from each of the nuc hives. I hope that I can put some honey in brood into the new hive with the package bees so they have some reserves and a head start on brood. The new package will be Carniolan bees and my nucs were both Italians. I don’t think there is an issue with Italian brood being raised by the Carniolan bees. The Italians will live with them for 45 days and die, but in the mean time they will be helping the colony to get established.
Placing the new hive will be an issue. I want it to be situated away from the two Italian hives. The two hives are about 40 feet apart. I did not want to have an apiary arrangement with all the hives together. I don’t want the bees to spend all their time robbing each other and I want them separated a little in case one colony gets sick. I want the Carniolan hive to be 40 feet, at least from the two Italian hives so the Italians won’t be as inclined towards robbing them. The geometry is a problem, especially since Erica does not want the bees near the paths. She wants them well off into the parts of the property where we don’t walk much. I want them away from the neighbors. I don’t want anyone to complain about the bees. I have more than an acre of land and my neighbor to the south is a mostly untended cemetery that is about an acre and a half. There should be room for the bees without having to put them near the living neighbor’s border
I finished assembling my five supers and started painting them. I’ll paint them all this week if the weather is nice after work. I ordered a case of one piece plastic frames – I am through nailing together frames and putting in foundation. I ordered queen excluders. I may not use them for a while, though, as the colonies are doing well so far and I don’t want to crowd them.
This was the first weekend where every plant in the neighborhood seems to be blooming. It was warm enough for the bees to really start working. I figure in less than three weeks the new brood will start emerging and the population of the hive will start doubling. If I don’t have enough room for them to expand then they might swarm. I figure the hive body and the first super will be for brood. I need to buy some more supers for honey, but that will not be until June.
Going into the future the colonies might increase in numbers and show good strength. It is just as likely that they might suffer and not do well and die over the winter. My goal is to get a few very strong colonies and split them going into the fall. I would buy Jersey Girl Queens from a local source and next year I could to sell a couple of hives through an ad in Craigslist. This would at least move me towards prosperity. I could sell the complete hive with the extras for about $350. That would be about $100 profit. They sometimes go much higher on eBay, so I might research this.