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BamaBeek
06-14-2010, 12:31 AM
Well, no question here but I just had to share.

The Cahaba River Honey (i think I have settled on a name) apiary has 7 functioning double-deep hives, and my girls (worker bees) have been busting their little tails over the past month.

This past weekend my darling wife (DW) and I just pulled off another 220 lbs of honey off 7 hives! For context, I pulled my first load of 150 lbs of honey mid-May, leaving quite a bit of unripe honey for the next (this) harvest. This batch will be a wildflower honey from nectar collected from the beginning of April to mid-June.

I easily left 100+ lbs of unripe honey on in the honey 'supers', and should be able to pick that up on the next and probably final harvest. Last year I got a final harvest of a really nice and rich darker honey around the end of the summer.

I'm actually looking forward to a summer dearth [of nectar flow] so I can get serious about making some MEAD!

My goal is to get to 8 seriously strong, double-deep (two deep brood chambers) honey-producing hives with a few small 'nuc' hives with spare queens for emergencies. If I can over-winter these successfully I may be able to produce well over 1000 lbs of honey next year.

BamaBeek

Chevette Girl
06-14-2010, 01:07 AM
Awesome! Almost makes me wish I lived closer! :)
Or had enough land to consider keeping bees myself...

icedmetal
06-14-2010, 12:04 PM
Doesn't take all that much land to have your own hive... Though I've never seen it myself I hear it's quite possible to have a hive on your back porch in an apartment. Now trying to convince the neighbors it's safe is probably the hard part. ;D Apparently roofs work as well.

BamaBeek, that sounds pretty awesome. My wife and I have just one hive, and given the weather this year we'll be fortunate to get any honey at all. We just removed the syrup feeder yesterday and replaced it with a honey super. The weather in the pacific northwest has been just terrible, with so much rain that for the most part the bees haven't been able to fly at all. We're on to our third day in a row without rain, which I think is a record so far this year. Hopefully it keeps up; blackberries are supposed to be blooming right about now.

BamaBeek
06-14-2010, 12:53 PM
Icedmetal - You are right on the space. The hives don't take up much room but it is nice to have space to work (I use a frame of 2 4x4's on cement blocks) and you need to have a 'bee runway' that people won't be walking through. There's no FAA/control tower so they tend to just run the path they remember and sometimes just run into anything or anyone in the way. You can use a bush or fence to force them higher earlier and that can help minimize space requirements as well.

Bummer on the weather, but it does give you a chance to build up big bee population for maximum production when the weather permits. I'd consider feeding pollen substitute if they aren't getting out enough to keep the brood fed. Just remember to pull the feeders before putting on the honey supers or you may be getting feed-syrup instead of nectar honey!

Also, I highly recommend 2 hives over one. WHEN you have problems, such as a hive that isn't queen-right, it is much better to be able to pull a frame of eggs/larvae from the other queen-right hive so they can set things straight ASAP.

If you are raising bees instead of gathering honey this year, maybe you can pull off a split and prepare for a better fall 2010 or spring 2011.

BamaBeek

icedmetal
06-14-2010, 04:15 PM
Agreed on the two hives front, it's something we were planning to remedy next spring by getting another 4lb package plus queen. This is our first year, so we don't know anything about splitting hives. Is it pretty straightforward? We've got two deeps full of brood and bees, and had to remove a swarm cell or two, so population-wise I think we're doing pretty good. When we were pulling frames yesterday it was a struggle to see anything because the frames were so covered in bees. Wish I'd had my camera and a third arm to operate it; I could really scare people with the pictures. :o

BamaBeek
06-14-2010, 06:26 PM
If you have a double deep full of brood and bees, are seeing swarm cells, and aren't in a situation likely to produce honey, you couldn't be in a better position to split.

From what you have said, here is what I would do. First, make a decision on buying or raising a queen. I've done both successfully, and am now experimenting with VSH queens. If you think that the weather is so bad that it would interfere with the 5 days or so the queen has to complete her mating flights, or if you want to control your queen stock (a good idea) I would lean towards the buy decision.

Buy 2 more deeps and frames.

Split the hives. The easiest way is just to separate the two boxes, leaving one where it is (the lower) and moving the other a few feet away to a new location. If you want to be more careful about it, you can re-balance the frames so both hives get a good mix of eggs, larvae, capped brood, honey and pollen. Keep the eggs/larvae/brood towards the center, and preserve frame order/orientation when possible. Favor the deep without the queen.

The single deep hive you move away will likely be weaker as the foragers will return to the old location. For this reason I would prefer this to be the one with the current queen.

The other deep needs to either raise a new queen, in which case you want to make sure that it has plenty of eggs, young larvae and preferably but not necessarily a swarm or supercedure queen cell. From an egg your worst case timeline (assuming a successful raising and mating period) should be about 30 days. Best case is you do this when you see a capped queen cell, or an uncapped cell with an egg/larvae in it as this is a faster path for growing the new queen. Try not to disturb the hive too much as it is very easy to damage queen cells or to make a virgin queen 'jittery' when she should be off mating. If you think things are going south, you can add a frame of eggs/larvae from the queen-right hive every week until they raise a queen.

If you are going to introduce a purchased queen, l would leave the split queen-less for at least a few hours to at most a day to facilitate acceptance and then put the queen cage in and make sure she stays caged for at least 3 days to get acceptance. If you wait too long they will start raising a new queen, which can also interfere with acceptance. Give her a few days to a week or even two to start laying.

For either hive, when you have a laying queen and your combs are 85%+ populated, I would add a second deep and 'checkerboard' the frames. That is, move 5 frames up, 5 frame down, and make every other frame a new bare foundation frame. Feed liberally. This layout plus feed will get them to draw out new comb as quickly as possible.

If you need to strengthen the hive that was moved, just swap positions and the foragers will tend to return to the original location.

If you don't see new eggs and young larvae in both hives after the appropriate time, you need to add more eggs/larvae, a new queen, or just combine them back together. Failure to do so can result in the dreaded 'laying worker' scenario. That said, if you proceed as I describe, this should not be a problem.

The objective will then be to get 2 max strength hives in shape for any possible fall flow, or worst case, for over-wintering.

BamaBeek

icedmetal
06-15-2010, 11:53 AM
Great advice, thanks! I'll see if my wife is interested in two hives this year instead of next spring... ;D