Bee Update

Checking the hives The bees are doing so well I’ve decided to go to weekly checks. This week’s status is:

Left-most hive, just getting started drawing their super, which is ten undrawn wooden frames. No nectar yet. These girls only had 8 frames drawn in their top hive body last week and they very virtuously finished the last two frames down there before moving up. Good girls.

The next hive is the one that has no super and hates plastic. They’ve finally buckled down and started drawing. There was capped honey in the center frame, which I moved to the outside, and they should be ready for a super next week. I’ve got a shallow with ten wooden frames set aside for them. 🙂

The second hive from the right is well along with drawing their comb and has just a bit of nectar stored up top. They might well be ready for a second super next week. This was the hive that looked so crowded last week.

Ready for a second super! This week’s surprise is the rightmost hive. There is a full frame of nectar in the center, and even the outermost frames are at least half drawn. There are bees everywhere. They seem to have overtaken their neighbor in population. They doubtless started with better frame than their neighbors, and there’s plenty of room for nectar, but I gave them a super of undrawn plastic (one wooden) because I certainly don’t want them to stop drawing as long as they’re in the mood.

If they keep going like this, I’m going to have to decide next week whether to buy three more supers. Our remaining supers are two shallow with undrawn wooden foundation, one medium with fully drawn wood, and two with plastic that have never been placed on a hive. Clearly I’ll be scattering the drawn stuff in among the plastic, but that’s not the issue. Eventually I think I need to have three honey supers for each hive: that way, when I put the third empty one on, I can take the first, presumably full, one and put it at the top of the stack with a bee excluder to empty it out for extraction.

Things usually slow down from the middle of July until the fall flows start in September, so I doubt if I’ll have to do any early extraction to provide anyone with a fourth super. However I only have enough supers to put a third on one hive, and even with all the comb yet to be drawn, I don’t think that’s enough. So if I do put on two more supers next week, I think I will order two or three more, just to be safe.

I just went off to Betterbee, and discovered that it now costs $0.25 more to buy the pieces to build a wooden frame with wax foundation than it does to buy one piece, ready to go plastic. And the plastic lasts much longer. Lasses, ye may be stuck with the plastic.

It’s also time to be thinking about next years expansion plans. In the best of all worlds, with say 10% winter mortality, I’d order a couple of Champlain Valley queens and pull a few frames of brood and bees each to get them going. In the real world, I think I need to order at least one package as well, which in turn would mean that I need to have woodenware on hand for three new hives in case everyone survives. (If I lose a hive and can only use one queen, well, there’s never any trouble finding someone who needs a queen in May.)

On a tangent, when I went to get the link, I noticed that Champlain valley uses one deep on top of one medium as a hive. That is quite tempting: deep supers at 90 lbs full, are one of the things I’ve been looking to ditch as part of the ‘farm till I’m 80’ plan. Mediums are only 60 pounds. I can see that that deep on medium would suit the bees better than medium on deep, which would suit me better. All of the spring orders are fine to place after Christmas, so there’s no hurry on this decision.

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