Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dinna Fash Yourself or the Bees

I spent the last few days agonizing over how to best manage my hives.  The bees are running out of room.  The last time I opened the hives I thought I found some queen cells.  I added a super to the top of each hive about a month ago.  Two weeks ago I added queen excluders between the top deep box and the super. My next step was to split the hive. 

In preparation for the split I bought and assembled two deep eight frame boxes. Unfortunately, I only bought one bottom and top.  I really should have bought three more sets.  My hives are full to capacity and I think I can probably get two splits off each hive.  If the split that I just set up works, I'll be heading back to the bee store.

After reading and reading and reading about how to split a hive I came to the conclusion that:
1) There are as many ways to split a hive as there are bee keepers.
2) There is no single right way to split a hive.
3) Stressing over how to manage my bees in not productive.
4) I'll never know until I try.

The advice of one of my favorite fictional characters holds true again, "Dinna fash yourself."

I received similar advice from my very wise daughter, H13, who said, "I have found that animals very often know what's best for themselves."

On these expert opinions, I made my way to the hives today to try a walk away split.  I placed the new eight frame hive next to my second hive.  Then I swapped four frames from the second hive with the empty frames from the new hive and put both hives back together.  The idea is that in the end my four frames of brood and food will develop their own queen and become a new, healthy hive.  I'll check them in a few weeks and see how they are doing.

Spring on the Farm

Our farm in the spring is a gorgeous place to be.  This year I'm not feeling so uncertain about what needs to be done and how to do it.  I've realized that doing this wrong is a way of learning.  I've also learned that even a blind hog finds a nut every once in awhile.  Both of those pieces of wisdom go along way toward making me try new things and enjoy what's going on around me.

So far this spring we've gotten our garden planted.  We have two hay fields ready to be cut.  We've ordered our chickens and turkeys.  They'll be delivered after our vacation.  We had our cow butchered.  He weighed out at 900lbs.  We've got  freezer full of meat and were able to cover our costs by sharing half with friends.

We purchased two new calves.  The cute factor of these guys is through the roof.  It's a good thing they've got a lot of growing to do before they hit the dinner table.

Our next project will be fencing.  We need to get something more permanent in place before we can expand our barnyard.  The electric fence works fine for a cow or two but for sheep or goats we'll need something else.

We also are looking into buying some kind of utility vehicle.  There are some other pieces of equipment that would be helpful to own ourselves.  A hay cutter and baler are top on the list. An animal trailer is not far behind.  Farming is an expensive undertaking. 

The White House Farm continues to be a busy place.  We are so grateful to God for meeting all our needs in such a glorious manner  and giving us so much that we never knew we wanted.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring is Buzzing

I was viewing the beginning of the bee season with a little dread.  My last experience with my bees was less than positive.  In fact, I'll admit, it freaked me out a little.  It was unsettling to have my bees angry with me.  I wanted to be their champion, not their enemy.  The winter break from the bees was a good thing.  It gave me time for the stings to heal and the fear to fade. On the down side, it also gave me time to forget all the good visits I enjoyed with my bees.

I consistently visited my hives over the late fall and winter to view them from the outside.  On all those visits I saw a few lazy bees flying around the hive.  The activity level was low but I was hopeful that the outside activity was not a true picture of the inside activity.  Tapping on my hives produced a deep buzz that promised more life than the lumbering guards indicated.  That sound gave me hope. 

A few weeks ago I made a speedy quick visit to my bees to put supers in place.  I was concerned that the early warm weather and budding trees were going to send my bees into a frenzy and produce a swarm, or two.  I was advised to put supers in place before I installed the queen excluders thus giving the workers time to draw out the wax before I placed an obstacle in their path.  When I opened my hives to add the supers I found two very busy hives.  I did a little happy dance for the healthy hives, put the supers in place and closed the hives.

Today, two and a half weeks later, I opened the hives to put in the queen excluders.  Again, I was hoping for the best.  A hive could easily have swarmed in the time I was gone.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised as I inspected my hives. 

In Hive #1, the super I’d added wasn’t drawn out at all.  Only a few, 25 or less, bees were moving around in the top box.  I removed the top super and began pulling frames in the first deep box.  Those frames were full of honey, some capped and some not.  I didn’t see any brood but the workers looked extremely active.  The first eight frames were really full of honey, most of it capped.  I moved the 10th frame into the sixth space and moved the others to the outside in order to give the bees easier access to an empty frame.  I placed the queen excluder between the deep box and the super and closed the hive.

Hive #2 continued to be the busier hive.  The super that I installed held 100-150 bees.  Again, the wax hadn’t been drawn out but there was more movement.  I removed the super and took a look at each of the frames in the top box.  Each frame was full of honey except the first frame which had a huge hole in the center.  I also found a few drone cells.  This hive had several drones that were easily identifiable.  On several frames, it was challenging to pull the frame because the bees had connected the frame below with the frame above by filling the gap with comb.  Unfortunately, I found several queen cells on the frames.  They didn’t look like swarm cells, there were fewer than ten.

I didn’t pull frames in the bottom box of either hive and I didn’t see the queen or any brood in either hive.  My next inspection should include separating the top boxes from the bottom and inspecting the frames in the bottom boxes.  I’m hoping that I have enough time to get my new hives ready.  I’d love to split my hives and keep all my bees happy and here.