I have just come back from feeding the bees. There is some good news and bad news.
First, it has been 50 days since I split Connie. This was a walkaway split and I did not have high hopes for it. Connie has since swarmed. If I had waited a bit, I might have had some of the swarm cells in the split. The life expectancy of a bee is about a month and a half. There was brood in the split box, so the hive would be officially dead around now. I can say that there are nice healthy bees coming and going in the split. I did not see any returning with pollen and it is 1/4 the activity of the Connie hive next to it. Is it alive? Maybe. It could also be “drift” from Connie, who like living next door, although their queen is really Connie. I am hoping that it builds up over the summer and that the Russian genes, that like to build up quickly take over so that I have a strong hive going into the summer.
The best news is that Ethel and Fanny are doing well. Fanny is named after my great-grandmother. These are the packages that I got back in April and they already have two honey supers, one with about 25 pounds of honey and the other about half full. I fed Fanny, but the feeder on Ethel is all gummed with propolis and I had trouble getting at it. The plastic screening I used to cover the top is all chewed up so it offers me no protection. Ethel was quite upset with me fumbling with the inner cover and sent out a few girls to drive me off. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and already had 4 stings from William’s hive so I gave up. I’ll come back later when I look at the honey super with a suit. She is strong and has lots of honey and can do without sugar for a day or so.
Martha and Justine are doing OK, but they are not showing a big buildup. The look healthy enough, but I’d like to see them with more activity. Justine has a second deep added, but Martha has yet to fill the first deep with honey. This is a concern, because I would like to see them with two deeps going into the winter. I will feed them as much as they can take in July and August when there are fewer flowers blooming.
My swarm trap hive looked like I might be getting a swarm, with lots of interest in the hive, but that has died down and there are not bees visiting it today.
I have a guest hive for a beekeper named William who needed a temporary place for his hives. The queen seems to have failed a few weeks after the package installed, so we put in a few frames of brood from Ethel. The hive is very bitchy and I was stung four times while feeding it this morning. There is a lot of activity at the front of the hive, but I think that it could be robbing, getting the last of the hive’s honey. It looks like lots of newly hatched brood, though, and not the larger bees of robbers. Perhaps the frames we added are hatching and the activity is from a queenless hive. It has been a little over two weeks, which means that activity might be the advent of a queen’s maiden flight. Keep your fingers crossed.
I am of the opinion that there are enough bees in the hive that a queen could restart it. A queen costs around $25 and there are a few apiaries in north jersey that will sell a queen. If William doesn’t find a queen, I might do it.
I am of the opinion that opening a hive out of curiosity is a good way to kill the hive. You can tell most of what you need to know by watching the front of the hive. You open the hive if you are worried that it is not queen-right. You open the hive to rob honey, and you open the hive if you feel you would like to do something like re-stack the supers to prevent a swarm. Looking into the hive just because you are interested is not fair to the bees. The queen is incredibly fragile and the brood needs a constant 98°. You put the queen and the brood in jeopardy every time you mess with the hive.
I have killed two hives by opening the hive and pulling frames to see what is happening. I don’t do it all now. Bees have been taking care of themselves for millions of years. If they can’t make it on there own, there is not much that I can do.
The next tasks will be to add supers. I might take off the full supers and do some extraction of honey. The honey I took out last month is about 2/3 gone, but we have not been selling recently. If we sell out, I will spin honey on July 4th, perhaps. There are about 50 or 60 bears worth of honey now, so It would be a good thing. Traditionally, beekeepers leave the honey in the hive and only harvest in the fall, but I have read that you can take the honey as soon as they make it and the hive doesn’t care, as long as you leave 60 pounds of honey in the hive for the winter.