Monday, March 14, 2011


hive bodies waiting for spring
Winter is a waiting game for beekeepers. We approached our first winter informed through others' accounts that a beekeeper's winter work was that of building equipment, reading bee books, and waiting. The first two are easy.

We can officially testify that the latter is not quite as passive as it sounds. Especially during a winter as cold, snowy and altogether trying as the one we're finally leaving, the waiting game is one of anxiety, fretting, worry and every other synonym you can think of. And then there's the withdrawal.  For three months there's just no bee watching.  No analyzing pollen loads trying to guess what's in bloom, no playtime (where new foragers orient themselves to the hive's location before they're off), no peering into honeycomb looking for eggs.  The bees do what we do--hibernate--and you just miss them.

Our inspection this Sunday, however, proved our fears wrong and our patience worthwhile.  Aside from a bit of varroa mites and small hive beetle that seem somewhat inevitable, we were pretty pleased with the population and health of the hives. Huge sigh of relief.

Last week we quickly popped the top off the three hives in our backyard (Ada, Billy Jean and Columbia) and checked their lower boxes in the hope we could remove them. Here's why we did that. It is somewhat common practice to use two deep hive bodies for the brood nest and then use medium or shallow boxes up top for honey storage. Because frames with honey are significantly heavier than frames filled with pollen or brood, you typically use a smaller box for honey supers to save your back. An increasingly popular practice is to use a uniform size of hive body to increase interchangeability of your frames/hive bodies and also to decrease the back strain of lifting the heavy deeps.

comb cobbled from a deep's excess

As with many aspects of beekeeping, you can ask a few experienced beekeepers for their opinion on the matter and get a few dozen responses back. We really just needed to grow into our own opinion on how to organize and last year we opted for one deep on bottom and medium bodies on top. One year later, we find ourselves in the uniform equipment camp and were interested in converting the deeps we've already invested in into medium bodies. Therefore, our first item of business was to remove the deeps from our hives and cut them down.

That was last week. This week, we took the newly fashioned frames (the great part is that some of them had bee bread--honey+pollen=bee bread--still in them) and frames of fall honey we'd saved for the spring jumpstart and gave them back to the ladies. This time, however, we placed the boxes on top of the brood nest.

Afterward, we poured a tall glass of water and admired the girls.

No comments:

Post a Comment