This summer has been as busy as it has been dry. July 1st was a major day for me as I sold my company and officially became “semi-retired”. It did not take long for me to wonder how I ever found time to work with a lot of the newly found time going into our bees.
New Yard, New Friends – Hillside Springs Farm
Last December/January I ordered a package, 3 nucs and gratefully accepted an offer from Rick of a hive to restart my apiary. I really wanted 3 colonies but ordered more as winter can play havoc with the availability of nucs come spring. Instead, we had the mildest winter in years and all 5 colonies needed homes by the end of May. In previous years, our home apiary of 4-6 hives struggled to make enough honey to overwinter without a lot of fall feeding (and NO honey harvest). My plan was to have 3 colonies here so I tried to find an out yard for the remaining 2 colonies. Luckily, Gayla learned about Hillside Springs Farm, a local CSA owned by Frank Hunter and Kim Peavey since 2002. From their website;
“Hillside Springs Farm is a small horse-powered CSA farm in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, growing 3 acres and over 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, using only sustainable, organic, and biodynamic farming methods. Hillside Springs Farm is unique in the area for its extended 24-week harvest season, all-inclusive pricing, freshly pressed apple cider, and draft horse work.”
Frank and Kim are incredibly dedicated, the farm is bountiful, the veggies look outstanding and what a honeybee paradise! Thankfully, they allowed me to place the established package hive and Rick’s hive with them (both on drawn small cell comb). I am happy to say we just harvested our apiary’s first honey in 3 years from this yard! Rick’s hive gave us the honey and is now 6 mediums high with a booming population. That is after I harvested 15 frames of honey from the hive and placed a couple frames of eggs , a frame of nectar and another of pollen into a nuc that I took back home and and let them raise a queen that it now laying a beautiful pattern. Thanks, Rick! This is my best hive.
Before moving the package hive to the farm, I fed it 4 gallons of 1;1 syrup with Honey-B-Healthy and Vitamin-B-Healthy. It built up well and was a deep and 4 mediums when the queen died (have I mentioned how much I hate package bees?). There were about 20 emergency cells in the hive and I decided to let them raise their own queen. That saved me $30 and more importantly, broke the brood cycle from late June to late July, reducing the mite load (no queen=no brood=no place for mites to breed). After returning from the EAS meeting, I purchased 3 queens from Troy Hall and planned on making nucs from the package hive. Unfortunately, the hive lost a lot of strength while raising a new queen and I was only able to take 10 frames from the hive ( 1 of eggs, 1 larvae, 1 pollen 2 nectar rest empty but drawn comb) to make a 2 story nuc. I then took yet another 5 frames from Rick’s hive to start a 2nd nuc and brought both home so the bees would not return to the original hives. I added a 2nd story to Rick’s nuc and after 1 day of the nucs being queenless, introduced a Hall queen (in cages) to each hive. Three days later, the queens were released and are now building up for winter in our home apiary.
The Apiary at Honey Meadow Farm
The 2 nucs I purchased from Mike Palmer and the Russian nuc from Dan Conlon were hived at our home apiary. One of the Palmer nucs was hived on small cell and one on large cell. The large cell hive is out performing the small cell but I wonder if it is because it is in the shade during the hottest part of the day while the small cell hive is in the orchard and in direct afternoon sun. So much for my “big” study of n=2 hives😉. The Russian hive is also large cell and resides in the orchard. Speaking of the Russians…
The Russians – A great idea but…
As expected, they were slow to build up once hived in a 10 frame deep (btw, all of my hives are 10 frame). I fed them immediately and they took about 2-3 gal of 1;1 before deciding not to bother. At this point there are 3 mediums on top of the deep with about 2 of supers filled of capped honey and the rest nectar. The queen has only laid in the deep. She is unmarked and I have not seen her since the day I put her in the hive. Various stages of brood, eggs and pollen are always present and there is a good population of bees given the size of the hive.
Now the but…These are the nastiest bees I have ever had! One had best be wearing protection if opening the hive. With smoke or without, these bees do NOT like me in their space! I normally wear a veil, t-shirt and long pants when doing my inspections. This hive has me with a bee jacket, veil and double nitrile gloves! I do look at this as my fault. Everyone else I know with Russians tells me how gentle they are. I believe I have a nasty queen and I should have replaced her 6 weeks ago but was too busy to make it down to Warm Colors. My bad as Dan is now out of Russian queens, so she is the matriarch until next spring. I have seen zero swarming behavior within the hive and there is always space for her to lay within the deep so she seems to be managing the hive well. Just leave her alone, thank you! Next chance I get to replace her, she’s gone.
The Palmer Nucs
Mike’s bees are from Carniolan stock and his nucs are truly overwintered. They build up quickly and you have to be sure to stay on top of them so they do not swarm in early summer. I kept both of them here as I hived one on large cell (LC-1) and one on small cell (SC-1) and I wanted to see if there was a difference. Since the nucs came as large cell deeps, I had to use the large cell frames they came on in SC-1 hive but the rest of the foundation and comb is small cell. Oddly, even with feeding, it took them forever to draw out new foundation in either hive. So long, that I finally added a 2nd deep with drawn large cell comb to LC-1 because they were not drawing out any of the foundation in the mediums and I was afraid they would swarm. After taking about 3-4 gal of 1;1, both finally started to draw out their foundation and are doing well.
In comparison, LC-1 is doing better than SC-1. LC-1 is now 2 deeps and 3 mediums tall. I have harvested 9 frames of honey and I removed 2 frames of eggs, one of nectar and one of pollen to make a nuc for the 3rd Hall queen. I also removed 7 additional frames of “honey” and placed them in the bee freezer so I have reserve frames if one of the colonies gets light next winter. These were the early syrup frames and I wanted them out of the hive anyway. This hive gets early morning sun and is protected from the hot afternoon sun which may be why it is doing so well.
In comparison, SC-1 is in the orchard, is in shade during the early morning and in direct sun from about 10AM until after 7PM. It has been hot and dry this summer so I wonder if that is having an effect. It is doing well and currently is 6 mediums tall. The queen is mainly laying in the bottom 3 with a bit of brood in 4. Most of supers 4-6 are now capped honey and nectar.
Both hives can occasionally be a bit fiesty but are usually gentle and easy to work. At this point, unless we have a good fall flow, I will not harvest any additional honey and will move what they have made around to balance out the hives and nucs for winter. We now have harvested about 60 pounds which is enough for us, some gifts and a few for sale.
Monitoring Mite Load
So you may have noticed there is very little about hive monitoring, mite load and treatments. Trust me, I am! In fact, I have moved to Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS), an organically approved formic acid treatment. I will discuss this next week when the treatment is completed.
It is now mid-August and the mite load in your colonies is probably rapidly growing as your bee population starts to decrease a bit as the hives start raising your winter bees. If you have not been monitoring your mite load, DO IT NOW! Waiting until September or later in New England is too late. It’s not just the mites that matter but the fact they are a vector to passing other diseases that will infect your bees now as they get ready for winter. Knocking down your load to 1% or less now will make for much healthier bees in winter. Use a sugar or alcohol roll to get an accurate idea of your mite load. Screen bottom boards with sticky boards are not totally accurate and should be used mainly to determine overall trends.
Well, it’s finally pouring here right now. Naturally, my extractor is sitting unprotected outside the barn since the bees were enjoying cleaning up the residual honey after I harvested some frames yesterday. I guess I should have looked at that fancy weather station in the orchard last night…
I hope your bees are buzzin’ and you are enjoying fresh honey!