Spring Honeybee Management
Two out of my five been hives did not make it through the winter, and I needed to back-fill two empty hives.
When you purchase bees, they come in two alternatives. The first is called a nucleus or nuc for short. It’s a box of bee frames with live bees, bee larvae, established comb and a queen. You open the box and install the frames, and presto, you are a beekeeper!
The second alternative is to buy a bee package, which is three pounds of bees and a queen in a separate included box, with the 3,000 to 5,000 bees imprinted to the queen. A bee package is less expensive, and a little more effort to get established. I purchased my two bee packages from Krantz Bee Supplies in Frederick, MD.
I ordered my bee package a few weeks back. Mr. Krantz drove to Georgia over the weekend and the bees were ready for pick-up in Frederick. Mr. Krantz picked-up 200 bee packages for his Howard and Frederick County clients, all Italian stain honeybees.
It was dark by the time I got home, and I put the bees in my garage, and I installed them late this afternoon, with the help of my bee mentor and neighbor, Jim Chaisson.
The first thing you do is take a few frames out of the hive and spray sugar water on the bees, which greatly reduces their ability to fly for a few minutes. You tap the bee box, forcing all of the bees to the floor of the box. You pull out the feeding can of packaged sugar water and the small, separate box that holds the queen.
You then tap out the bees onto the frame floor of the hive and then shake the hive to flatten out the piled mound of 3,000 plus bees.
You then unplug the queen chamber, break-up the sugar candy block and place the queen cage into the hive in-between comb trays. Within a day or two the queen will chew her way out of the sugar wall and join the hive.
With that out of the way, you then rebuild the hive, put in a feeding jar of sugar-syrup and any remaining bees in the travel box will find their way into the hive to join the queen and colony that they are imprinted to.
One hive done and one to go. This particular hive is on a scale, and I can weigh the rate-of-gain for honey production. Jim Chaisson has been doing this for years and when charted and plotted, is amazing to see how many pounds of honey is made through the peak spring honey-flow season.
Closing-up the hive, and repeating the process for the second hive.
Installing the bees into the second hive.
The bees are going into prime time as honey production will peak from April through June, as various trees, shrubs and flowers come into bloom. Right now the bees are active on my apple blossoms, redbud and dandelion. I know that tulip poplar and locust is a big source of nectar for my bees, but that won’t be until next month.
Three of the five hives are well-established. The two new hives will take weeks to catch-up, as they build new comb, lay eggs, repopulate and contribute to honey production. Each hive may generate in excess of 20-quarts of honey.
Be mindful though, that because we rob the honey, which is their winter food source, we must provide supplemental feed in the way of sugar syrup.
I’m sure that our pet goats in the abutting pen have been stung a few times. Our dogs always stay far away whenever I disturb the hives, as the bees will be irritated for a few hours. otherwise the busy bees are rather gentle. and by the way, my purple martins do not feed on honeybees!