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  • stacy

Queen Buttercup

We have happy bee news at the farm this spring. Not only did both of our hives survive the winter, but we have added a third hive to our bee yard. I bought myself a third hive for a birthday present last fall and had been looking forward to getting it set up for several months. My plan was to do a hive split with one of our existing hives to establish a colony in the new hive, but I had to wait until spring when the bee population increases in size before taking the split. I had been watching the activity levels steadily increase outside both of our existing hives on the warm, sunny early spring days we had been having. I wanted to be sure to do the hive split before the start of swarm season, so that we didn’t lose bees to a swarm when we could be moving them into the new hive instead. Before doing the hive split I wanted to do a thorough inspection of both hives to figure out which one was stronger and then take the split from that hive. That meant removing all of the boxes from both of the hives and really getting a good sense of what was going on inside each of the hives. Most of the time I do the hive inspections by myself, but if I need to remove entire boxes from a hive, I like to have my husband help out to do the heavy lifting.

We waited for a warm sunny day at the end of March to inspect the hives and do the hive split. Sean had the great idea to set up the trail camera so we could get some good photos. We inspected our oldest hive first, which we started in 2013. We took off the cover and inspected the honey super, which is one of the smaller boxes you add during the peak nectar flow when the bees are bringing in lots of honey to the hive. I always leave a super on over the winter to make sure the bees have enough food stores to last through the winter. There was still quite a bit of honey in the super which was good news for the bees and good news for us. Since the bees are already starting to store honey this spring, we can harvest some of the honey left in the hive from last winter. There were lots of bees bringing pollen into the hive, and we saw Queen Rosalind in the hive during the inspection. I usually don’t see the queen during hive inspections, so it’s quite a thrill on those rare occasions when you do get to the big queen bee walking around on one of the frames. There were several frames of capped brood (developing bees) in the hive, which means the queen is healthy and laying eggs, but most of the brood was on the smaller frames in the super which is not ideal since when you split a hive it’s better to take the bigger frames from the deeper hive boxes. Everything looked good in the hive, so we closed it up and moved onto inspecting the next hive.

Our second hive was started from a split we did in 2014. This is Queen Rosemary’s hive, and it has always been a strong hive. This hive also had quite a bit of honey in the honey super. There was also quite a bit of brood in this hive, and it was in the deep hive box where it should be. This hive also had lots of bees bringing in pollen, and it looked like the population was a bit larger in this hive so we decided to take the split from this hive. We took three frames with brood and eggs and two frames of honey and pollen and put them in the new yellow hive. We also shook a couple of frames of nurse bees into the new hive to tend to the developing brood. Before closing up Queen Rosemary’s hive, we did a bit of housekeeping. The wax on the frames that the bees use for storing honey tend to stay light in color, but the frames that the bees use for rearing brood tend to get very dark over time. We replaced a few of the darker frames as well as adding frames to make up for the ones we transferred to in the new hive, and we closed up the hive.

After doing the hive split, I left the new hive alone for a couple of weeks to let the bees tend to their business of raising a new queen. When a colony decides to raise a queen, they need either eggs or larvae that are only a few days old, and then they will feed royal jelly to the larvae that are chosen to be reared as queens. It is really hard for me to see eggs in the hive because they are so small, so when we did the split I picked frames that I could see young larvae on and hoped that they were young enough that they could be reared as queens or that there were also eggs on the frame. After a couple of weeks I checked on the new hive, and I saw that the bees were building three queen cells, which are large peanut shaped cells that a queen is reared in. This was good news! I checked the hive again in a couple of weeks, hoping to find either the newly hatched queen or that she was laying eggs. I did not see either the queen or capped brood during the second inspection, so I was a little worried that the hive had failed to raise a queen. If that was the case, I would have to add another frame with eggs so that they could try again to raise a queen. If there was a queen in the hive, she would have only just started to lay eggs which are hard for me to see, so I decided to close the hive up and wait another couple of weeks and check back to see if I could find capped brood. When I checked the hive two weeks later, I was very pleased to see a couple frames with capped brood in a nice tight pattern, which means that there is a queen and she is laying eggs! So now we have a third hive here at the farm with Queen Buttercup on the throne, and we couldn’t be happier to have her in our farm family.



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