Bee Yard Report
The longer I keep bees, the more I realize that
you make up the plan as you go. I always try to spot equipment
in the good looking yards in preparation for splitting. I almost
always guess wrong. How they look early on has little bearing
on what they are going to do later. The yards where I had all
the equipment piled up were only average at the end of April.
Others, that were rather ho hum early on, were boiling with bees.
We seemed to have a much higher rate of queen failure
from the over wintered queens that we usually do. We would open
the lid and think, "Here is a good one". Then there
would be nothing but drone brood. Usually, there were enough bees
to divide these three ways. The other scenario would be to simply
set one of the boxes on a different bottom. This year we had some
small nucs with laying queens that we used to requeen the drone
We usually split our bees way down. Some years we
keep going until the third week in May. Most of those years have
had cold wet springs and beans were still being planted in late
May or even early June. This spring was a whole different ball
game. The weather was great. We haven't been stuck one time (no
4-wheel drive). Everything was early. Dandelions were blooming
by mid-April. We pulled the bees out of the orchard the last week
of April. The biggest factor for us is that the beans are already
in the ground. That's going to shorten our season considerably.
We started pulling brood from the good colonies
before the winter wraps were off. We pulled the three frames out
of the middle of the top box, shook the bees off and then but
the brood into another box on top of a queen excluder. The bees
will come up and cover the brood. We come back later and pull
the box and put a new queen in it. Sometimes we leave it in the
same yard and sometimes not. Queen acceptance in these splits
is about 98%. When we spread the bees out into nuc boxes, queen
acceptance isn't quite as good. My theory is that we upset their
organization but I don't really know.
I don't like to draw comb in the brood nest. We
just haven't had very good luck with that. We had to do it this
year since it was obvious we were going to run out of brood boxes.
Some of our good colonies got a
box of foundation instead of getting split. We pulled three frames
of brood and put them in the middle of the foundation box and
then put the other three frames of foundation between the brood
frames in the second box. Others got two or three frames of foundation
inserted into the second box when we split them
Some of our colonies still looked huge after we
took the split off. We gave these a third brood box, thinking,”
We’ll do them again later". Some of these boxes got
filled with honey before we got back to them. Now we are on the
verge of woodland bloom. Our colony count isn't quite where we
want it but we have decided to stop splitting. If we get some
weather there will be honey. If we don't, there will be a lot
of swarms hanging in the trees.
A major departure from normal for us is supering
without queen excluders. We still have to do it on the single
story colonies but they won't be ready for another two weeks(late
May) We felt like the doubles were just too big to be restricted.
We used a few excluders on the ones that still had undrawn foundation
in the brood nest because we hoped to force them to draw it.
It's been nice having son Eric out of the Marines
and home helping with the bees. Adam came down from Ames in late
April and grafted some larva. His queens are just starting to
lay in the nucs. He is home now to help us get organized for the
summer. Alex has been around when we needed him in addition to
taking care of "The Buzz". It's been a busy spring.
Submitted by Phil Ebert