I created this site to track what I’m learning, what I’m thinking, and what I plan to do in the process of trying to build and maintain honey bee colonies in Western Baltimore County. If I am diligent in this effort I should be able to come back here to figure out what I was thinking when I get to the point where I’m saying “What were you thinking!!”
One of the current problems that bee keepers are having relates to low hive survival rates, particularly over the Winter. A lot of hobbyist bee keepers just accept the losses and buy replacement bees in the Spring.
I would prefer to just have one single beehive. Unfortunately, it seems that you need to keep at least two to allow reinforcement of week hives and moving bees out of crowded hives to reduce the risk of swarming. If I can get winter survival under control I plan to get to one real hive (with supers for honey) and a couple of NUCs that expand and collapse throughout the year (just for raising bees/queens). If I have just a 50% survival rate I can still get my main hives up and productive early.
With my recent experience in getting the bees to make new queens, I have decided that using what I learned in the process I should be able to cover normal winter hive losses by running a couple of small (NUC) hives just for bee and queen building. This would allow me to breed my own queens for annual replacement as well as providing insurance hives to cover me if one of my main hives succumbs to winter. I have most of the woodenware (and bees) to do this, so I guess I have a plan.
The plan then, is to go into Winter with two hives and two NUCs. If I do well (no losses) I will have two hives ready to take advantage of our Maryland Spring nectar flow. If only half survive I can populate the main hive losses by moving the NUCs over and have a great start on built out comb without having to buy bees.
If the NUCs survive I will unstack the boxes making four 5 frame NUCS, place an “egg layer” frame in the best hive. Once it has fresh eggs (larvae less than three days old) I will move the frame into a queenless NUC and let the bees there make new queens. These will then be used to replace the queens in the main hives in June or July. This is based on the assumption that the queen in my main hive has the genetics that I am trying to propagate. I may have to do some queen replacement to get to the kind of bees that I need.
I’ll move the old queens from the main hives into the NUCs (pinching the queens there) and restack the NUCs to build for the following winter.
My main objective in is entire effort is to provide a significant number of drones from highly hygienic queens to the local apisphere. If I can get enough of the hygienic genes into the local bee population it should enhance their chance of survival in a difficult environment.
Hey, if any one else can learn from my processes (successes or failures) then it is worth the effort.
Some of the things I have learned:
- The pine that BrushyMountain and Mann Lake use for their hive woodenware it not the same as the clear pine that you buy at Home Depot or Lowes.
- Trying to paint woodwork in an unheated garage in January is probably not a good idea.
- Crylon Spray paint on unprimed wood is like pissing into the wind.
- Open feeding in a small apiary is not a good idea.
- Box jointed boxes are much better than rabbit jointed boxes.
- Having a spare NUC available in the brood chamber size can be real handy and provide more options when problems are encountered.
- Keep the bees off of the ground. They get pissy when you step on them and they like to climb up your pant legs is you walk through them.
- If you take off your veil/jacket to take a break, double check that you have zipped everything back up before going back to the hives. Forgetting a zipper can spoil your plans.