It has been a few weeks so we decide to open up the hives again and see how they are doing.  West hive had many healthy looking bees at first but now there is no movement in or out of the hive.  The other three appear very strong.  Time to open them up and see if we need to take other actions to make these splits work.

West hive has no bees or brood either alive or dead.  The only thing living in here is one small hive beetle larvae.  We will salt the earth around the hives with diatomaceous earth.  Diatoms are microscopic algae from the soil on the bottom of lakes or oceans.  The diatomaceous earth will prevent beetle larvae from hatching in the soil because they are sharp like tiny pieces of glass that the larvae cannot crawl over.  Diatomaceous earth will also kill bee larvae so we must be very careful to not get any of the diatoms near the hive entrances.  The queen cells on west hive are hatched and all of the honey is gone so it is likely that the bees just swarmed out of west hive with a newly emerged queen.

We open south hive hoping that they are strong enough to once again attempt to repopulate the west hive.  Third time is the charm on splitting to west hive right?

Many live bees and pollen of every color present in south hive.  Notice the beautiful rainbow collected from so many different flowers.  Honey from this hive will be excellent for spring allergies.

We find the queen of south hive.  This queen is our oldest queen and approximately five years old.  If anyone can save west hive from another death, then it is our trusty old first queen.  All of our bees in all of our hives came from her.  We have never bought any bees besides the nucleus she was in three years ago.  She is very hygienic according to our mentor so her disease resistance will be great also.  We decide to catch her and put her into west hive along with more brood and some honey stores.

North hive is making lots of honey in the brood box.  There are many live and active bees.  We don’t use a queen excluder because it makes the bees too slow to draw out comb.  We also believe that it is more natural not to use one.  The queen should have free exploration of her entire realm and we want to let the bees do what comes natural to them.  We won’t harvest any honey combs that contain brood but just be patient and let them move on to somewhere else for brood.  We don’t find the queen of north hive but she is clearly alive because the bees and brood there are thriving.

We are using the HBH sugar solution only for bee calming this time.  We still lit a smoker for safety reasons but did not actually use it on the hives.  We are also trying another method of pest control.  With this method, you place a dry swiffer wipe in the corners above the brood box.  The bees will try to remove it.  Small hive beetles’ legs are smaller and hooked so when they try to crawl over the swiffer, they become trapped in the sheet.  The bees will fluff up the swiffer while trying to remove it making it more of a trap for beetles.  Eventually, the bees will drag the swiffer out along with beetles that died from starvation or are still alive in the trap.  We decided to try this instead of an oil trap because oil traps are messy and kill many bees.  We are still chemical free on the hives.  No antibiotics, antifungals or insecticides still.  We only saw one larvae in the dead west hive and one live beetle this time which is a massive improvement over several weeks ago so our natural methods must be working.

East hive has many frames of capped honey.  Our first honey harvest of 2017.  We stole the queen from this hive on the last split to give it to north hive.  Both hives are clearly doing well so we decide maybe we did figure out how to do a split.  Moving the queen seems essential.  Just adding swarm cells to the new hive was not good enough to establish a new population.

Another look at the open queen cells from west hive.  Opening the queen cell on the end means that a virgin queen emerged and went out to breed.  She may be killed while doing that due to the elements or she may return after her breeding flight and abscond with a swarm.  Clearly west hive did work out initially but then the queen decided to take off to a new home.  The desire to swarm is a strong biological urge that sometimes cannot be overcome despite all precautions against it.

This queen of west hive was killed by one of the emerged queens.  Notice how the cells is opened though the side and not the end.  This queen was only killed by another queen.  Other female bees can only sting once but the queen can sting multiple times to subdue potential threats to her reign.

Chris helps harvest the combs.  We had a decent first harvest which is surprising since our splits keep failing.   Also, a successful day because we took honey, transferred a queen and brood all without using any smoke for protection.  And there were no stings.

We did not find the queen of west hive at all but there was much evidence of her being alive and present.  This frame contains many young bees, some larvae, colorful pollen and capped honey.  The wax on this frame is very light because the comb was made very recently and only used once or never used.  There were about 30,000 more bees present in this hive since last time we opened it so the queen is definitely there laying eggs.

Closing up the hives and sprinkled the diatomaceous earth around the hive stand.  Removed feeders with HBH since foraging is readily available and pests are at a minimum.  We added an entrance reducer to west hive.  This is basically just a chunk of wood which partially blocks the hive entrance.  Maybe this will keep out drafts and help the hive to succeed?  Overall, three hives are going strong and have queens which is better than last year.

Fall 2016 honey vs Spring 2017 honey.  Spring honey from our apiary is always very light in color with a buttery taste.  The viscosity is also so much greater on our spring honey that some small air bubbles will never settle out of the honey.  It is a fantastic artisanal product that you can really know is locally produced and raw.  Pasteurizing honey will make it thinner and darker with better shelf stability.   Most people are used to pasteurized honey which is what is available at the store.  Pasteurizing honey ruins unique flavors and textures.  Heating honey also destroys the proteins which means that it is not as good for allergies, infections or inflammatory conditions like arthritis.  This honey is best for adventurous  consumers who are interested in a honey which is locally produced and unique in flavor with the best health properties.

Spring 2017 honey is currently available in the shop along with our popular lip balm.  It is a small batch honey and very unique so it sells out quickly.