Calm+Confidence Crew Memorial Day Newsletter 2021
It’s been lovely spending time at your hive inspecting the growth of the colony. For this email, we’re wanting to focus on the top 3 goals when inspecting a hive: the queen’s laying pattern, available space for brood and honey storage, and signs of a weak hive.
The placement and density of brood (eggs and pupa) show signs of the queen’s health and how she’s using the space available to her. With a queen bee laying ~2,000 eggs a day, her efficiency and overall success are greatly impacted by the available space of drawn comb she has to deposit her eggs. Eggs are placed in the central frames of a super, or hive box, so worker bees can maintain a steady environment of 92-95 degrees Fahrenheit to support their growth. Spotting where she positions her brood can help us gauge if more supers need to be added.
A general rule: if there is brood in the top super, it’s time to add a box (and check for queen cells in the boxes below). Ideally, we should stack multiple deep supers for brood and place medium supers above for honey storage. This helps with reorganization as a deep super filled with honey can weigh over 100lbs…not easy to move!
Deciding to remove, add, or reorganize supers is another essential decision to make as a beekeeper. During growing months (spring and summer), we’re wanting to add supers to the top of hives allowing expansion for brood and honey without providing too much space. This can increase vulnerability from pests and predators. These supers can be shifted down throughout the hive once bees have built up usable honeycomb. We’ll remove some of these supers in the fall consolidating the bees and their warmth for winter.
To encourage the bees’ immediate use of the new box added, it’s helpful to move some old frames with workers and drawn honeycomb into the center of the new box and place empty frames at the outer edge of lower boxes. Another trick in reorganization is moving capped, ready-to-harvest honey into the outer area and empty frames into the center. This provides more usable space for brood or honey without creating more square footage for the bees to defend.
Lastly, you simply want to assure the bees are happy and healthy, not weak. A stale or foul scent, deformity in bees, aggressive behavior, and presence of wasps/robbing bees are all signs that the hive needs our support. A change in scent or the anatomy of the bees (like misshapen wings) can mean a bacterial, fungal, or mite infection that requires a “hive treatment.” Watching and listening for a behavior/buzzing change or bees attentively “checking” each bee that lands on the hive can mean beetles, wasps, or other bees are attacking the hive. We can use traps and entrance reducers to aid their natural defenses. However, if we don’t take the time to observe, understand, and respond to their needs, a weak hive can collapse.
We’ll be inspecting the hive one more time this spring as the girls settle into the summer season, so you’ll be able to put this information into practice soon! Bring the questions you have and we’ll bee sure to make the inspection a quality learning experience.
Happy Memorial Day!
Lauren Anderson, Apiary Manager