A Year in the Bee Yards- Part I
Late Winter - Spring

 

A Year in the Bee Yards - Late Winter - Spring - Ever wonder how honey is made by the honeybees, what a beekeeper actually does - Here is a month by month pictorial of how we do it at Honeyflow Farm Spring - Late winter feeding, installing breeder queens, raising new queens and making spring splits.

 

 
springcolony
This is what a beehive looks like over winter and into spring. The honeybees live in the two bottom "supers", which sit on a "bottom board", above them is an "inner cover". Above the inner cover I usually keep an extra super (which sort of acts as an attic) and then a "top cover"
feeding
In late winter (january/february) I check the colonies to see if they have enough honey left in them for the honeybees to live on until spring. Feeding them dry sugar is an emergency measure to keep the bees from starving. In this picture I have removed 3 frames from the extra super that I left above the inner cover and pouews in about 5 lbs of dry sugar. This sugars is consumed or removed before the main honeyflow where the honey that we harvest is produced. The sugar just keeps the bees alive and never gets into the honey!
 
shippingcages

In late april we received 2 mite resistant queens that we will use as queen breeders. This picture shows the shipping cages that they come in. These were artificially inseminated queens from a queen breeder in California (cost $75 each). There is one queen in each box with about 6 more attendant bees to accompany and feed her.

 

puchincage

These queens will be installed into 2 different colonies. It has to be done very carefully since sometimes the bees may not "accept" her and will kill her. I find and remove the old queen and put the new one in this "push in cage" - made of wire mesh screen. Click on picture for a closeup of this cage.

The queen is near the top (inside the small cage) in this picture. The brown area contains cells of brood. This brood will hatch out in a few days and the bees will groom and feed the new queen. After 3-4 days the bees will get used to her and I will remove the cage.

puchincage2
This frame is inserted into the hive so the bees can get used to the new queens pheremones (smell)
jentercage
The plastic box in the picture is call a "Jenter" cage. It is used for raising new queens. The queen mother is put into the cage (through the round hole) and left there for a day and she will lay eggs. 4 days later the young larvae from these eggs will be transfered to another hive for queen raising. (click here for a good article on raising queens - from Glenn Apiaries in California)

queencellframe

 

2queencells
Young larvae are moved from the cells in the jenter cage into the yellow queen cell cup holders. The frame shown above can hold up to about 30 cells and it is then put into a strong queenless colony. This frame only had 10 good queen cells made. This is a very poor yield caused by this years cold wet weather during our queen raising period. (I removed the rest of the cells that the bees did not build)

The cell on the left was not made into a queen cell. The peanut shaped cell on the right contains a future SMR mite resistant queen.

 

2 weeks later: I went back to check and take the cells from the above left picture and a queen cell that I missed must have hatched out & the queen killed every cell on this frame! Oh Well - Such is Nature and the Perils of Queen Raising!

cherryblossom beedandelion dandelions

This time of the year (mid may) is the best time in our area for making splits and checking hives. It usually is nice weather, fruit trees are in bloom and the bees are busy in the trees and on the dandelions and IT SMELLS WONDERFULL. Can you picture the nectar from this orchard in bloom in your jar of honey? This is where honey comes from!

splits
splits4

Our spring colony check is a very important part of the bee year. Weak colonies are made stronger by taking frames of brood from strong colonies & given to the weak ones. This also helps to prevent swarming which is sometimes caused by colonies being too big and crowded. Splits are new colonies made by taking 3 - 4 frames of brood, bees and a queen cell. We use splits to replace colonies lost over the winter and sometimes to re-queen weaker colonies.

 

The above picture on the left is a colony taken apart and if you look close I have added a yellow queen cell to it. The picture on the right is a typical bee yard of mine, with my old white truck backed into the yard. My smoker is lit and I am ready to inspect my hives for this spring. Most bee yards are in a very peacefull setting like this. This was in a wooded area on the side of a very large orchard in Romeo, Michigan.

 

splits2
splits3
This hive body has a division board in it and I have made 2 nucs (small colonies). The yellow queen cells are laying on the top, I will soon carefully position them so they hang vertical. A cover will go on the top and I will check them in 2 - 3 weeks. I like to leave on box like this in every beeyard in case I see a queenless hive on my next inspection in June. Here is a typical new colony or split. You can see the yellow queen cell and the white stuff on the right is a grease patty with wintergreen oil in it. It is one of the treatments we use to help keep varroa mites in check.

 

Continue on to A Year in the Bee Yards - Part II - Summer & Fall...