Honestly, I don’t know how people who have large apiaries do it, especially those who do it as a side hustle. I suppose the more hives you have, the less you fret over each. That’s certainly been the case with us. I mean, we fret in the sense that we try to do what’s best for them, but I think we’re a little calmer about the possibility of things going wrong.
Thankfully, we seem to have settled with six colonies, at least for the time being. Still, we’ve had to split our hive checks into two days. It’s just too hard to go through six hives in one go. Hence the double wordplay in the title — it’s split shifts because our bee duties have been split into two shifts, and split shifts because four of the eight hives we’ve had this year were the result of splits.
Today, we checked 1A, 1, 2, and 2B.
1A was split from 1, taking the original queen with it. It’s our only eight-frame hive, and it’s pretty packed. If any of our hives is a candidate for swarming, it’s this one. The fact that there were eight or ten queen cups on the bottom of a couple of frames would lend weight to this possibility. With the discovery of eggs in several of those cups (turning them into queen cells), a swarm becomes even more likely.
Since we also saw the queen — and she was clearly laying well — we’d normally split the hive, but frankly, we’re running out of room and supplies, despite having spent about $400 on wooden ware in the last month.
Instead, we took out that brood-laden, multi-queen cell/cup frame to move to another hive and added another honey super because the first one is full of capped and uncapped honey and nectar.
They may still swarm, but we bought Swarm Commander to spray on the little bushes the last swarm picked. According to several people who should know, if you spray a little on a cotton ball and attach it where you want swarms to land, they’ll go there.
Apparently, nothing else does the job quite as well. I sure hope they’re right because it’s $35.95 for a 2 ounce bottle!
We moved on to 1, last checked on 20 May. There was a queen present on 11 May, but no larvae, eggs, or evidence she was laying. When we looked on the 20th, we didn’t see any either, so we’d given them a frame of eggs to make a queen if they needed one. Now, we’re questioning if we bothered to look in the super because today we did, and there was brood, eggs, and larvae. We didn’t see the queen, so we took out the queen excluder, hoping she’ll move downstairs where there’s more room.
There was also lots of honey in the supers, so we swapped two fully capped frames for some empties.
So, the good news is the hive is queen right and they’re making honey. The bad news is she’s been laying in the wrong place.
On the other hand, some beekeepers swear the bees make more honey if there’s no queen excluder to hinder their work, and I’ve kind of wanted to see if this is true.
Maybe this is our chance to find out.
One worker, who apparently took offense at our presence, stung me through my glove. I can’t blame her for being cranky. It was a hot day (mid 80s), and the hive was crowded, especially upstairs in the “nursery.” It hurt a bit, but the stinger scarcely penetrated the glove. Of course, the bee’s crankiness cost her a lot more.
There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere … something about a person’s bad temper causing them more pain than it does others maybe?
Next, we came to #2, the one where we watched the queen emerge. When we last peeked inside, we saw the queen — who was nice and big and therefore clearly mated — but no evidence she’d started laying.
We went through the bottom box … and found lots of pollen, nectar, and honey, as well as some comb they were drawing.
Thinking something had happened to the queen, we put the brood-laden frame with queen cells in the box.
I love the pattern made by the varied colors of the pollen.
It wasn’t until we reached the top deep box that we found what we were looking for — brood, eggs, and larvae, followed by a spotting of the queen.
Can you spot her?
I’ll make it a little easier for you. Here’s a couple with The Engineer’s hive tool pointing at Her Loveliness.
Are you ready for a challenge? See if you can find her below!
I’ve circled her. Did you spot her?
So, what will happen to the queen cells from the other hive? Our hope is if the bees are happy with their queen — and they have no reason not to be — they’ll ignore those eggs and let nature take its course.
Still, who knows what goes through their tiny little brains?
Last up was 2B, the hive from the swarm. We have a board with mason jars acting as a honey super for this hive, in the hope they will make comb in a jar for us.
So far, all that’s happened is the comb “starter strips” keep falling down, and the jars have gotten moisture in them, which we’ve tried to alleviate by adding a couple of sticks beneath the board and an inner cover with a front entrance to allow more circulation.
Since we had to do some repair work on the starter strips, we decided we might as well check that hive too.
We spotted the queen, as well as some larvae, eggs, and brood, and the bees have been making comb.
However, they still have three empty frames in their living quarters, which explains why they’re not interested in making comb in jars.
When we took the jars off to repair their strips, we discovered the ants had moved in. We’ve been ignoring ants around the hives ever since we learned they produce formic acid (the same stuff we use to get rid of the dreaded Varroa Destructor Mites). Still, nesting in our experimental comb honey jars before the bees even got in them was pushing it too far, so we used the old cinnamon trick to discourage them.
In writing this just now, I’ve had the idea that perhaps we should steal some brood from the crowded hives, say 1 or 1A, and put it in this one to give them a little boost. I’ll have to discuss that idea with The Engineer to see if he agrees.
In summary, today we checked four hives and either saw queens or evidence one had been busy laying in all of the colonies.
Later this week, we will check 3A and 3B. 3A should have a queen because when we split the hive, we moved her into that colony. 3B is the tall nuc, which may or may not have a queen yet. If they do, she’s probably not started laying.
After that, hopefully sometime next week, we’ll treat the hives, probably with Formic Pro since most of them have brood.
From left to right, we 1A and 1 (checked today and currently sporting heavy beards), 2 (also checked today), 3B (tall, skinny pink nuc we will check later in the week), 3 (on picnic table), empty nuc box (in case a hive wants another option to swarm to), 2B (swarm hive with comb honey setup).
Other than that, we’ve enjoyed seeing Tears for Fears and Garbage (a Christmas gift from Darling Daughter) at a nearby venue. We were very grateful DD sprang for pavilion seats (for us oldies) because it poured buckets as soon as we got out of the car.
I’ve exited the shower drier than I was when we got to our seats. Fortunately, it was warm so it didn’t spoil the evening.
Two days later, we went camping for four nights where we dined on such delicacies as pie iron samosas.
Once again, we snagged a site by the river, so fell asleep to the rippling of the water.
It was delightful.
Although we left the kayak at home (we were driving to Columbus and didn’t want to leave it in a hotel parking lot overnight), we hoped to rent one for a days paddling. Unfortunately, the river was too high, so we spent two days cycling a nearby rail-trail
Near one of the trailheads, there’s a grass strip. We paused a moment to envy the pilot who was using it.
It’s a nice bike path. I recommend it if you’re ever near Mansfield, Ohio.
After camping, we threw all our gear into the van and went to Columbus. There, we ate gyros with Darling Daughter and Partner. It was so pleasant to see them again … and to enjoy dining in their screened-in porch.
We were in town to see the Beach Boys, who were performing a free concert at Columbus Commons, (another outdoor venue, but one without pavilion seats). Disappointingly, a major storm came through just as the gates were supposed to open. Because it was significantly cooler than the previous concert night, and we’d already had our outdoor shower for the week, we decided to skip the concert.
Instead we enjoyed the novelty of a bed that wasn’t the ground and food that hadn’t been cooked outside.
It rained all night, so this decision turned out to be the right one, at least for us.
On the way home, we were passed two R-Vs. Both had unusual spare wheel covers, although I was only able to capture a picture of one.
In our twenty-four hours at home, we managed to get the camping gear unpacked, although not re-packed, and The Engineer cleaned the van. I got in a fast visit to my mom, did the laundry and made a dish for the Memorial Day picnic we were attending.
I made this super-easy and delicious cinnamon cheesecake. I’ve seen a similar recipe made with lemon, which I’ll try sometime, but I don’t usually have lemons on hand, so it will wait until we’re not quite so busy.
The picnic was yesterday (another hotel night — thank heaven for The Engineer’s points from all his nights away before retirement), with lots of delicious food and good company.
Thankfully, this week we have no plans that involve overnights away because, in addition to bee work, we want to try out the kayak on our local lake, get some house work done, and prepare for our garage sale.
I’m looking forward to having two days with nowhere to go but inside a garage full of our cleared out stuff!