On May 4, 2022 I began my 3rd year as a beekeeper, but it was my first year taking a serious dive into what it means to keep bees. I lost a hive in the winter of 2021, so I purchased two new, 5-frame nucs for the apiary to replace the ones that died in 2021. The queen bees were new in 2022, which is important because queens should be replaced every 2-3 years. I initially named my hives Tolerable and Mean. If you are curious about what goes into keeping bees, this is for you.
- 🐝 Looking for the 2023 journal? You can find it here.
- 🐝 Confused by the terminology? Check out the glossary here.
Going into the summer of 2022 with two beehives, each with two deep boxes. The Mean hive has a honey super, but they are doing nothing in it — no honey to speak of. Instead, they have filled out one and a half frames in the top deep with some capped honey and some that is uncapped. 7 of the remaining frames in the top have frames of brood mixed with honey. I haven’t checked the bottom deep box.
Here’s what I’m thinking, if I put the queen excluder between the two deep boxes and move some empty frames to the bottom deep so that she has a place to lay eggs then the brood that’s in the top deep will hatch and the nurse bees will clean out the frames so that I can harvest a frame or two of honey because the honey will be left over after the brood is gone. I wonder if that’s reasonable thinking, or do I just let them do their own thing and forget about harvesting honey this year? Both hives are thriving.
Moved queen excluder to bottom box with queen in bottom in order to encourage capping honey stores and not lay brood in the upstairs deep.
Removed queen excluders. I did not add a honey super to the Tolerable hive.
Checked both the Tolerable and Mean hives. Looking good. Added honey super to Tolerable hive for more room. Small bearding. It’s been super hot.
Checked hives. The Tolerable hive is filling super with honey. Will check back in a week. Did not check deep boxes for babies. The Mean hive that I’ve now dubbed “Mad As Hell” hive (MAH) is full of brood, so I added a honey super. Very hot temps outside, and very hot tempers in the hive.
Spoke to mentor at Beekeepers mtg. He suggested doing a “Plan B” (Plan ‘BEE’) 🙂 by removing some frames of brood from each hive and creating a nuc with a purchased queen. That way, I would have a 3rd colony going into the winter just in case something happens to either of the other hives, and it would only cost me $35 for the new queen. Great idea. Think I’ll go this route.
Checked bees. Observed no queen (NO QUEEN!) in the Tolerable hive. Crap! But I found queen cells, about 8 that were not hatched. Ok, this is a problem and throws a wrench into my “Plan Bee” plan. Decided to do a “Plan Bee” plan anyway (a split) after talking with my mentor. I left the unhatched queen cells in the hive and moved another frame of unhatched queen cells into a nuc and added 3 frames of brood and a frame of food from both the Tolerable and MAH hives. I hope this works.
Nuc seems to be ok. The workers are busily working on the frames, but I didn’t pull any out to check. Checked Tolerable hive for any evidence of queen activity. None, but there was one queen cell that still hadn’t hatched. Fingers crossed. There was, in total, about 1 side of a frame worth of capped brood, but no baby larvae at all. Bees were busy. There were about 1.5 frames total of capped honey. Should I consider downsizing this hive to deter pests while I wait on queen activity? Decisions, decisions!
Based on some research I did it looks like the bees didn’t build on the honey supers because there wasn’t enough wax drawn out on the frames. In the future, be sure frames for honey production are waxed (use a foam roller and crockpot to heat edible wax) so that the bees don’t have to work so hard to store honey. It takes a ton of resources to make honeycomb — give the girls a head start! Note that for next year.
FOUND A QUEEN ON THE NUC, which is no easy feat because she is hard to spot when she doesn’t have a dot on her back. Lol. So, this means that the nuc grew their own queen! I didn’t check for eggs. There was no evidence of a queen in Tolerable hive and there was a decreased number of bees. I’m getting concerned because we’re heading late into the summer when there’s a reduced number of drones to mate with a new queen, so success for this hive is not looking good. I’m so glad I have Plan Bee. I took the honey super off of Tolerable hive and gave it to the MAH hive to finish capping so I could harvest some and have the Tolerable girls focus on making a queen instead of capping honey. Stay focused, girls! I gave the Tolerable hive a frame of brand new brood from the thriving MAH hive so that they can make another attempt to grow a queen. It’s been 3 weeks since I observed no queen in the Tolerable hive.
Saw orientation flights from Tolerable hive.
Inspection: The nuc has a laying queen – there are larvae everywhere! Woohoo! She went out and got herself mated and came back and laid some pretty eggs. I’m so happy. The question now is, should I move the nuc frames into a 10-frame box to prevent them from swarming? There is no capped brood yet. There is no evidence of a queen in Tolerable hive . . . again. Argh! MAH hive is working on the honey super but not finished yet. They are VERY protective of their honey (flying at me from every direction) — definitely living up to their name.
Inspection: nuc doing well; Tolerable hive is down to 1/4 of a frame of capped brood. Still no queen and no larvae. It’s been 6 weeks since I observed there was no queen in the hive, and this is taking waaayyy too long; MAH hive is still strong, checked honey super and still not full. I did not take the time to look for the queen, but I saw evidence of her recent, egg-laying activity. Texted mentor to come by for a look — coming on Friday, 8/5.
Mentor came and we added Apivar mite strips to all 3 hives. Checked Tolerable hive. My wonderful mentor brought me one of the 2 year old queens he was going to replace and we put her little cage in the middle of the Tolerable hive and added a frame of brood from the MAH hive (be sure to keep the workers with the frame). The queen was in a cage with some attendants with tape on the end. After 2 days I tore off the tape and released her onto the frame and watched to make sure she was accepted by the colony. She was, so I moved her to a frame that had space for her to lay. My mentor thinks the MAH hive is too aggressive and the queen should be replaced. (Hives take their cues of aggression from their queen, so you can replace a queen if you want increase the chances of having a gentler hive.) I’ll consider it, but they are really thriving so I may leave her. We checked on the nuc and it was growing so well that I moved it into a 10-frame box. We discussed hygienic queens, and after the beekeeping meeting on the 25th I asked him to reserve one for me so that I can replace the 2-year old queen he gave me. He’s going to be buying new queens in January/February. As for the MAH hive, I left a super of honey on top. We will not eat that honey since we used the Apivar strips.
Checked on the Tolerable hive and didn’t see much progress out of the queen. Now, I know that I should have waited at least 10 days before opening it back up to check, but I’m just so anxious! Seriously hoping that lady starts laying some eggs . . . soon!
We’ve had so much rain that I wasn’t able to get out and check before today. It’s been 2.5 weeks since I introduced the new-to-me-headed-for-the-trash queen to the Tolerable hive. Checked Tolerable and looked for her on just a few of the middle frames. Could not find the queen, but there are lots of larvae and brood, which is evidence that she is laying and doing her thing! Yipee, you go girl!
Checked the food reserves of all 3 hives. Running low. Even the MAH hive with the super has uncapped all the honey and only has a little remaining. We are in late summer now. Brood looks good in all 3 hives. There were at least 3 frames of capped brood in the top deeps. Couldn’t find queens in any of the hives but found older larvae. The queens could be in the bottom deeps. I didn’t venture down into the bottom deeps because, frankly, it’s a pain; the boxes are heavy and the bees are continuously bumping and flying at me and very agitated. I looked for pests–didn’t see any. Found one bee with a deformed wing — will need to watch for this (could be the start of disease in the hive). Talked to mentor about needing wax for my frames next spring and he told me to buy 3 or 4 lbs. Made sugar water — 1 part sugar to 1 part water — in large, 2 qt. mason jars. I added an empty super box with internal feeding bowls to the each hive and filled the feeding bowls with the sugar water. (Next year, do this earlier than usual.) Each feeding bowl holds 2 qts. Check back in 5 days. Need to prep for next spring. Check notes from 8/25 meeting.
Took off the honey super and set the frames outside in the front yard since we can’t eat the honey due to the mite medication we used.
Checked the sugar water in all hives and it was gone. Each hive drank 2 quarts of sugar water in 3 days! 😮 Fed them more.
9/10 Fed all 3 hives.
9/13 Fed all 3 hives.
Full inspection. Found queen in Tolerable hive. She walks as if she’s crippled, but she’s obviously killin’ it! Her brood looks good. Found small larvae in all 3 hives, which means the queens in each hive have laid eggs within the last 3 days. MAH is still making drone cells. They are storing water, sugar water, and starting to bring in more pollen. Plan Bee hive (with one deep box) is filling out — they shouldn’t swarm before season’s end. I hope they don’t because I’m headed out of town. Fed all 3 hives.
Fed the bees. Replaced 1 frame in Plan Bee hive that was broken.
Bees stopped taking so much sugar water. Phew. I was going through bags and bags of sugar.
Inspection with mentor. He wasn’t thrilled with the hive numbers and thinks they don’t have a large enough population to make it through the winter. What??? He believes that my little ecosystem doesn’t produce enough fall pollen and that each year I will need to supplement with pollen patties (using supplemental pollen purchased from Amazon) earlier than most people in my area, probably starting in July/August.
Checked on hives. Silly bees aren’t really eating the pollen patties. Replaced with new patties that were softer but only gave them half as much and squeezed a little out so they could find it.
(Day before Thanksgiving — I must be crazy.) Went to the home improvement store and grabbed wood and screws to build candy boards to go on each hive. Cooked the candy — recipe to come — and added it to each board along with pollen substitute in patty form. (May use dry pollen substitute next year.) I let the candy cool and then added it to all hives the next day.
Checked existing frames and made repairs. Took inventory of needed supplies headed into 2023. Researched additional supplies and new bee adventures for next year.
Checked on bees. Weather was 58 degrees and sunny. MAH had plenty of food stores but they were dead. All of them. I found 2 clusters of bees on 2 separate frames that were huddled together trying to keep warm but couldn’t and died, quite possibly from the extreme cold temps the week before (8 degrees around Christmas and stayed cold for a few days). Sad face. Cleaned off the dead bees and brood and gave the food frames to Plan Bee. Left some food stores in the MAH hive for robbing from the other bee colonies. 😢
Week of 1/9/23
When the temps hit 55 degrees or above I observed lots of activity coming from Plan Bee (now a hive with 2 deeps) and Tolerable. The girls are bringing in grayish pollen! I think it’s coming from Red Maple trees, but I’m not sure where those trees are in my area. I’m driving all around looking everywhere for pollen sources. Keep your eyes on the road, goofball!
My mentor came over to perform an Oxalic Acid vapor mite treatment on my remaining 2 hives. This vapor is extremely dangerous to lungs if inhaled and can cause permanent lung damage, so you must wear a tight-fitting respirator mask and gloves. This method requires the purchase of a vaporizer (appx. $70-$200). May consider using the OA sponge method later this year in lieu of this harmful, yet effective, method for treating mites. We briefly checked the hives for activity and things look good. Plan Bee is rocking right along! The girls are bringing in tons of pollen — still don’t know where they’re getting it, but they are smart enough to find it. Tolerable is a small cluster of bees, but they should be ok. January is the coldest month in Georgia, so historically, we are warming up from here on out and in the clear as far as losing any smallish hives due to extreme cold temps. Fingers crossed and praying this is the case.
Well, that’s a wrap on 2022! February is the start of preparations for the honey flow for our part of Georgia, so as beekeepers we have to “bee” ready! 🐝 You can follow along with the current year’s journal here.
— Be sure to buy or reuse good wax to roll onto honey frames to ease honey production for the ladies.
— Replace crippled Tolerable queen in 2023. Replace Plan BEE queen in 2024.
– In 2022 my goal was to let the bees take over their hives and not focus on honey production, although I was able to harvest a little for my personal consumption. I really wanted to dive deeper into understanding what the bees were up to and how they responded to the changes in weather, seasons, available pollen and nectar sources, and the changes I made inside their hives. In addition, I needed to stay focused and act quickly to resolve the queenless issue I experienced in order to save my hives. In 2022 I inspected my hive every 7-10 days. Some people may say that is too often and disrupts honey production, but there is so much to be learned from observing a hive on a regular basis and watching patterns develop if you are an inexperienced beekeeper or have experienced colony losses in the past. I truly believe this (and an awesome mentor and beekeeping club) are the keys to first (and second and third) year success. 😀
Confused about any of the bee terms I used here? Check out the glossary and BEE informed.😁