A Year in the Life of a Wild Honey Bee Colony


A honey bee super organism – or colony – has the same basic needs and drives as any other organism except that it is made up of as many as 60,000 individual bees.

In late winter and spring a hive will begin to produce large amounts of brood in preparation for swarming.

A new colony is born when an existing colony – which usually lives in a cavity such as a hollow tree in or near a forest – issues a swarm.  Preparation for swarming begins in late winter through spring when brood production and hive population increases and pollen and nectar become plentiful because of the blooming of trees and other flowering plants. Healthy colonies in the region will also start producing drones at this time.

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Straight Talk about Treatment free Beekeeping

 Straight Talk about Treatment free Beekeeping

 WhileTreatment Free bee keeping is an often misunderstood and controversial subject – especially on the internet – keeping bees without treating for mites apparently IS possible. More beekeepers report successfully practicing treatment free beekeeping every year.  However in a lot of cases you need to be pretty liberal in how you describe success – a few treatment free beekeepers do report strong hives, low losses, and robust honey crops – but it really seems to be pretty few.  Many more struggle just to go from year to year without losing all of their hives at one time.

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Things to Do with a Queen Excluder – Harvesting Nurse Bees

There are several reasons why you might want to separate the queen or move brood or nurse bees from one hive to another:

  • To strengthen a weak hive
  • To weaken a hive to try to keep it from swarming
  • To make up nucleus hives – either for direct increase or as mating nucs
  • To make a cell builder for queen rearing
  • Making queenless packages of bulk bees

The thing is, when you move a frame covered with bees there is always the chance that the queen is hiding among them – unless you find her first  it’s really hard to be 100% sure.  But finding the queen when you want to is often very time consuming – when you are not looking for her she often comes out and poses for a picture, but when you really want to find her it seems she is having a shy day.

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Bald Brood and Wax Moths

Bald brood is when developing pupa which should be capped are instead exposed.  Also, picture this – after the workers remove the exposed larva the queen is likely to lay new eggs in the newly vacant cells.  In a couple of weeks those cells will all contain capped brood and the good brood in the picture will all be emerged as adults.  The effect will be that of a terrible “shotgun” brood pattern, but really will not have anything at all to do with the quality of the queen.

Sooner or later you will see bald brood in your hives and wonder what it indicates.  It can be caused by hygenic behavior – bees uncapping diseased or mite infested larva for example.  It can also be caused by moving frames around or  changing the spacing.  But in this excellent article bald brood is from wax moth larva moving under the capped brood, and causing the worker bees to uncap the tops – possibly in preparation for removing damaged brood.

While you are there you should check out the whole website – http://beeinformed.org – lots of good reliable information.

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Inside your Hives

Things you might see inside your bee hives…

Image from the Beesource Glossary, here:

 Open Brood – eggs and young larva


More open brood – older larva

Queen Cells Image linked from : http://beeinformed.org/2011/08/grafting/

Queen CUPS

Linked from – http://www.beesource.com/resources/elements-of-beekeeping/beekeeping-glossary/queen-cup/

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My Favorite way to Split

This article is similar to a forum thread that I started on BeeSource

Splitting always comes up a a lot this time of year and like all things bee keeping everyone has their opinion – hopefully most of them are based on actual experience, and even trying different things. Making increase is one of my favorite parts of bee keeping, and I have tried a lot of different ways – I love to see things grow.

I have all 8 frame mediums – a single box hive is about equivalent to a 5 frame deep, and in our area will winter just fine (with sugar on top) and build up to a productive hive in the spring if all goes well. My opinion is that I would rather go into winter with two such small (but strong) hives than one big hive of any size – simply because you are twice as likely to have live bees in the spring. Also, remember that hives can (and often should)  be combined in either fall or spring if it seems like a good idea at the time.

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Installing Package Honey Bees

Soon your bees will finally be here – a most joyous occasion for new bee keepers especially. No doubt you have been studying up on how to get package bees into their hive, and already have some idea how to do it, but just in case…

Of course you already have your hive equipment all ready assembled, painted and hopefully in place in your future bee yard ready to receive your new BFFs.

If you are using a Screened Bottom Board – close it up!  Packages or swarms often abscond when installed in hives with open bottoms.  Once they have some comb built and brood going open it up if you want to, but keep it shut until then.

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Installing Your New Bees

This has actually been mentioned before, but I know that at least one person who got bees tonight did not know…   The nucleus hives that many of you bought with our club order are made up with Deep frames – traditionally most nucs are – however many people now want to use all medium frames.  If you are using deep hive bodies then no worries, but what do you do if you have medium hives and discover that your deep nuc frames won’t fit?  All is not lost.

Start by putting one empty medium hive body on your bottom board then put enough frames of foundation in it to make up the difference between your nuc and the frame count of your equipment – in other words if you have a 4 frame nuc, and you have 10 frame medium equipment, put 6 medium frames in.  Push all of those frames to one side.  Set another medium hive body on top of that.  Now install your nucleus hive frames in the second box – they will hang down into the space you left in the bottom box.  Now reach down with your hive tool and push the medium frames over against the deep ones – you might have to space them out to match the bee space between the matching frames, but don’t leave a big space between them.  Now fill the second box with medium frames – also push them over against the deep frames.  Never leave empty spaces in your hives or the bees will build burr comb in it.

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