May 12, 2015

Second Hive Check

Two of my questions as a novice Warré beekeeper were how long to feed my hive of package bees, and when to add more hive boxes.

Honeybees in my hive top feeder

In his video tutorial, "About Hivetop Feeders", Chris Harvey of The Warré Store (where I purchased my feeder) says to feed them until the first hive box is entirely filled with comb. In The Backyard Beekeeper Kim Flottum says to feed them as long as they'll consume it. This check was to see how far along they were in building comb in the top hive box.

If you look closely at the bees I've arrowed, you'll see scales
of wax being secreted from glands on their abdomens. 

Dan and I lit the bee smoker, removed the top, quilt, and feeder, and took a look.

This time I had the camera!

The first thing I noticed was that they were drawing comb along the wax beads I painted on the top bars.  That was good news because it will make it easier to remove individual bars of comb if needed. Sometimes they attach comb to two or more of the top bars, making it impossible to remove only one. This is known as crosscombing.

I also noticed that some of the comb is already capped, some cells aren't, and that some of the top bars had not been drawn out yet.

Busy bees at work

I did not look for the queen or brood. I'm trusting that my hive is queenright (has a healthy queen) by the bees' behavior. They are busy, purposeful, and bringing in quite a bit of pollen. Pollen is necessary for initially feeding brood, which takes 21 days from egg to emerging adult bee.

They had emptied the feeder so I put it back on the hive and added more. I'm using a 1:1 sugar syrup with a tablespoon of homemade honey-bee-healthy added to each quart.

How will I know when to add another hive box? According to David Heaf in his Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive, boxes are nadired (added to the bottom) when the bottom box is about 1/2 built with comb. How will I know that? With a handheld mirror. The idea is to add more boxes before they fill up the available space and decide to swarm in search of a larger home.

Checking progress. We're looking up through the screened bottom at the
top bars in the bottom box. Bees are present but not yet drawing comb.

That's where a screened bottom comes in handy. When I first took a peek about a week and a half ago, I saw no bees in the mirror. Now I see them because comb-building has progressed so that bees are in the area. Once they fill up that top box they'll start building comb in the next box down. The queen will move down as well, to lay eggs in the new comb. The cells vacated by newly emerged bees will be filled with honey.

About a week ago I enlarged the hive opening a bit.

Traffic is lightest in morning and
evening, heaviest in the afternoon.

Traffic was bottle-necking at the entrance so I swapped out the little chunk of wood to accommodate them. The purpose of narrowing the entrance is to give the new hive a better chance to defend itself, until the bees build up better numbers. Shortly after that I observed a carpenter bee trying to gain entrance. It was not only repelled but literally kicked out on its butt! Much to my relief it gave up after that.

They are certainly busy during the day, bringing in pollen, nectar, and water. I've only had the hive for about three weeks now, so the first of the brood ought to be hatching. These will take up house bee duties for their first several weeks of life, allowing the older bees to enter the foraging ranks. Some time I'll have to write a post about the life stages of a honeybee, because of all of God's creatures, I think they are the most fascinating.

Next - Honeysuckle Hive Varroa Mite Count

33 comments:

Weekend-Windup said...

It was nice to read about the honey bees. When i think about these bees i am afraid of their stinging nature but feel happy when i eat the honey.

Dawn McHugh said...

It is a fascinating hobby to have and of all the livestock easiest to look after You seem to be getting along great :-)

PioneerPreppy said...

I have yet to see a hive that actually stopped taking sugar syrup. No matter how much there is to forage on the nurse bees inside will still collect up the sugar syrup and store it. Legally speaking if you plan on selling honey you are not suppose to have syrup on the hive as it will be reduced down into a pseudo honey with the nectar. Not that you are worried about that now of course.

Generally speaking I only feed my new hives for about a month as it promotes comb building. If there is plenty for them to forage on I usually stop then but if it is dry or the hive appears weak I will continue until things look better overall.

Leigh said...

Weekend-Windup, good to hear from you! I don't reckon anyone likes to get stung. I have to say a honeybee sting isn't as bad as a wasp sting. And especially not as bad as a yellow jacket sting! That one can hurt for days!

Leigh said...

Dawn, they are pretty easy to take care of! Compost worms didn't require a lot of work either, except ours were so overrun with ants, pill bugs, and even mice that they didn't make it. Of course they coudn't defend themselves like bees can.

Leigh said...

Thank you for that, PP; it brings up another question, i.e. how to know when a colony is weak. I think I'm not sure because I have no experience to compare mine to. I think that's also why it's recommended that the beginner start with two hives!

I didn't know that about selling honey but it makes sense. I certainly wouldn't want to buy it if it contained sugar syrup! It would be wonderful to think that someday we'll have enough hives to have a surplus to sell. That's a few years down the road I suspect, although, I'm hoping to add two more hives next spring.

Feeding: I will probably wait to stop feeding untill I see comb starting in the lower box. Especially with the HBH I can see why they'd continue guzzling that sugar syrup down and storing it. Free food! In that same video Chris Harvey said it only took about about two weeks for them to fill the entire box with comb. At three weeks mine is about 80% built. In another video, however, he showed hiving bees and that he uses one and a half packages per hive. More bees would certainly make the work go faster. I just want to make sure mine get off to a good start.

Farmer Barb said...

I have a very keen interest in this whole process. My small fruit could definitely benefit from a home team of pollinators. I noticed that one of my earlier flowering fruits only got one of their flowers pollinated and the first opened did not. Probably like a lure. In some plants there are male flowers whose job is to open first and bring on the bees!

I think that when people start keeping bees, it's like eating potato chips--can't just have one!

Gill - That British Woman said...

interesting read, there is more to bee keeping than meets the eye.

PioneerPreppy said...

Best rule of thumb I have found is just judging by the amount of bees covering the comb inside and finding a nice pattern of eggs and/or larva on the brood frames. Often when I see a hive is dwindling there isn't a lot I can do about it because we are outside the season when I can replace a queen. To see if a hive has enough stores for Winter I just pick up a super and see if it is heavy enough. If a hive is light but otherwise appears healthy I will start feeding it syrup in September again to get enough fake honey on the it to make it through Winter.

The sugar syrup changes the balance of the hive which is why I try to keep feeding it to a minimum. It also invites pests, especially ants, into the hive. Ants are the real enemy up here followed by hive beetles, wax worms and mites.

My bees always seem to build up much slower than others report even when I feed. I usually count on about 3 months to adding the second deep and then give them a medium of wet frames after the last honey harvest of the year.

Lady Locust said...

This is great. Bees are on my list. Realistically, it will probably be a few years. Need to build the green-house first since they will be in the same area & wouldn't want to upset them.
PS - found your blog by first finding your book, which was great. I have checked back & commented a few times, and finally got on at home so I could become a follower.
Happy Trails.
Lady Locust

the Goodwife said...

Thank you once again for these posts! I am learning so much and while still quite intimidated, am starting to think it may be something I could do in future! :)

Leigh said...

That speaks of careful observation and understanding of one's own ecosystem. Supposedly, a Warré hive can overwinter with just two boxes: the bottom for the cluster, and the top for winter stores. That's assuming the top box is completely full of honey.

I only hope I can figure all this out for our area without costing the bees anything. In the long-run, I'm hoping to only feed new hives of bees during their initial establishment phase. Like you, this has more to do with preparedness for us, than maximum honey production. I have a lot to learn, so I appreciate all of your feedback and comments.

Leigh said...

Barb, I definitely know we have pollination issues here, so I am hoping this makes a big difference. And you seem to be right about those potato chips. :) I've heard the same said of goats, LOL

Leigh said...

Gill I'm trying to do careful documentation since this is a slightly different system than conventional beekeeping. Others are interested in Warré hives so I'd like to give as much information as possible. :)

Renee Nefe said...

awwe now I want a hive. LOL unfortunately hubby is allergic so he won't allow it at all. :( hummm I wonder if I can buy a share of my friend's hive?

Leigh said...

Thank you so much for telling me that! You made my day! A greenhouse is on our to-do list as well, but will be on the other side of the fence from the bees. We're trying to get our barn built first though, but there's just too many things to do!

Leigh said...

I think bees are intimidating simply because of the potential to get stung. My long time ago previous experience with bees was positive, however, so it was just a matter of saying, "do it!" :)

Leigh said...

Actually, shares is a good idea. Or perhaps someone nearby would let you keep a hive or two at their place just for pollination. Folks do it!

Nancy po said...

That is so cool! My hubby hated bees and vetoed it :(

1st Man said...

YAY!!!!!! I had a 'pollen' update yesterday, but this weekend I'll do a more intensive check. I'm with you, not going to go crazy looking for the queen as long as they all look good. Lots of pollen being taken in on ours so I think that's good. I love seeing your hive because it's new to me, I really only read up on Langstroth and Top Bar. I find it fascinating to watch the progress...

Congrats on your bees, they look wonderful!!!

PioneerPreppy said...

Most hives even up here will over winter fine on two boxes. The problem arises if the ball happens to be in the top box when it gets cold and stays cold for so long they cannot move to new honey. A Winter ball supposedly will not move down only up. I usually lose at least one hive a Winter because it got caught too high in the boxes and got stuck and starved while below them is plenty of food. Not sure how to combat this as we have such frequent warm spells and no way to check each time to see where the bulk of the bees are hanging out.

I doubt it is as much of an issue further South though.

Chris said...

It definitely looks like there's a queen, to be so productive! They are doing really well by the looks of it. Must be quite a bit of blooms around for them to harvest.

So did you put the second box on?

Sandy said...

Leigh,

I love reading your posts especially those about your bee's
It's very apparent your bee's are busy working and producing.
Can't wait to see your first honey harvest.
Good Luck, and congratulations on a well done beehive!!!

Bill said...

They truly are amazing creatures. Glad to see yours are healthy and productive! I've been so busy trying to finish planting that I haven't checked ours in a couple of weeks. They're still taking sugar water, but not much these days. I'll take that as a good sign.

Sarah said...

Wow! Learning so much! Thanks for sharing! They really are quite fascinating!

Leigh said...

Aw. Why don't you consider what Renee said, and either get a "share" in a hive or keep it somewhere else?

Leigh said...

1st Man, thanks! I was glad to see your hives doing well. Have to agree about the fascinating part. :)

Leigh said...

Chris, I decided to wait, but keep my mirror handy! I figure removing the feeder and adding the boxes at the same hive opening will be less invasive in the long run. :)

Leigh said...

Oh Sandy, I hope they're productive enough for me to harvest some this year! Newly established hives don't always bring in enough extra their first year for that, but I'm hoping!

Leigh said...

The thing that's nice about bees is that they require less hands-on care than other critters. So self reliant!

Leigh said...

Thank you Sarah!

Mark said...

Hi Leigh! Catching up on posts and hoping to get one of my own out tomorrow.. I'm loving the bee series. As I've said before bees are a couple years out for me, but I'm working on "getting smart" now. This is all great info.

Leigh said...

Good to hear from you Mark! And looking forward to your blog post. It took us several years of planning and preparation for bees. It's always such a blessing when things like that finally happen!