Mid-May hive management

May 17, 2019

Mid-May hive management

This is primetime to be working your bees for a successful honey crop, and we continue to upload videos that will help you along the way. Here’s just a few recent examples:

Increasing the success of your package bees, and how/when to split your hive

The provincial registration process, signs of a laying queen.

Monitoring for varroa mites

You can also watch our video on how a split is done. The provincial registration forms are on our website, hiveworld.ca.

Making your package deal work

Package bees are a necessity if you cannot acquire nucs or an active hive to get started in beekeeping. The downside is that bees arrive in a very unnatural state - they are in a confined cluster, the queen is separated and not laying, then they are put into a hive.

They may do very well, but statistics show that 50% of packages fail within a month. The bees are old, and in the first 21 days they have to feed the queen as fast as they can, while the queen is laying eggs as fast as she can. Normally there would be new bees coming along to take over - the balance of bee ages is very important in a successful hive, but for the first three weeks the old bees are on their own.

At 21 days the bees are becoming exhausted and and assume the queen is the problem, while in reality they are too old and cannot produce enough royal jelly for the queen.  So 50% of the packages supersede, which means the bees make a new queen and let the old queen dwindle. The new queen hatches out, then takes a mating flight. She comes back to lay eggs, but they will not create brood and new bees for another three weeks.

Some try to pinch off the new queen cell and introduce a live queen, but the bees will just make another queen cell anyway.

If your package bees make a new queen cell about week three or four, the only way to deal with it is to get a frame of brood from someone to speed up the development of workers to tend the queen.

Our recommendation - whenever you buy a package, it is ideal if you have someone who can provide a frame of brood three weeks later. It is generally safe if you take a look at the other person’s hive and it seems clean and healthy on the inside.  Just shake the bees off and take the brood.

Do the splits

During May  the colony gets to the point where the available space inside the two boxes is insufficient for the queen to continue laying. The top box is completely full and active with bees tending brood. The rapid increase in incoming dandelion nectar (as opposed to earlier pollen) is a trigger for a swarm to find new space.

We typically split the colony to create a second hive at the start of the dandelion flow, to reduce the queen’s desire to initiate a swarm. This ensures the dandelion flow works for you in building up your honeycomb production in both hives.

The idea is to leave the laying queen with the oldest bees, and introduce a new queen to the youngest bees. Go through all the frames and put most of the capped brood into another box. The entrances to the old and new hive should face opposite directions, to help the bees remember which is their home. In two days, add a new queen to the new box of brood. You can leave the bees to make their own queen, but then you won’t have any honey the first year because of the time it takes to hatch her new eggs.

Once you have split your hive and the queens are laying, you can leave the bees alone and go camping in June. Then watch your hive very carefully in July and August and take your honey off as soon as you can.

We hope you find this information useful and invite you to contact hiveworld.ca at any time for solutions and support. Also, our Meet The Beekeeper nights on the east side of Edmonton are free. Participants should register online, and at the same time sign the online waiver if they are attending for the first time. Bring your own bee suit and gloves, or pick up whatever you need at hiveworld.ca or at our retail store, 5418 - 136 Avenue, Edmonton.

In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels for all the latest news and tips.  

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