Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Been Away For A While, I Know!

This new job of mine has me working like a dog and I have been unable to attend to the beekeeping as much as I would like.  Also, I leave the area most weekends to see my family who is away for the summer, so there are no opportunities on the weekend to play.  That said, I have been attending to a large number of nucs on my rooftop when I can get the ladder out, and am installing a new hive here and there for new beekeepers.  I also have some new beekeeping observations:

Bee Breeds
I am reaching some conclusions on my choice of bee breed for the installations I did this spring.  You may remember I picked up 50+ four-lbs packages of bees for installation all over the DC area. 

650,000 +/- bees
These were packages of Russian's from Hardeman's (Georgia).  My choice of Russians was simple:  address the two biggest risks to the colony, winter and varroa mites.  And while many of these installed packages are thriving, about 30 percent got off to a very slow start even with copious feeding.  In some cases the entire colony died off, or withered to a tiny size.  So I have spent the last two months either combining hives, boosting colonies, or replacing bees completely.

I ordered a subsequent 20 packages in May of Italians, from Georgia.  ALL of these packages took off and took a second deep super in 30ish days.  In addition, I have several clients who are now collecting honey from these first-year colonies, which is generally unheard of.

So next season I will be sticking to Italians....even if there is a potential for a difficult winter, I think a successful (and lower maintenance) first season is most important.

Foundationless Frames
Yes they are a little easier to put together, and slightly less expensive without the wax or plastic foundation.  But my results have been mixed.  In some cases I get a significant amount of funky comb building, or comb that crosses over the frames.  While I generally counsel not to worry too much about this and just leave the brood chamber alone, there are times when one needs to pull a few frames such as when checking for eggs to confirm a viable queen or pulling a few frames to start a nucleus colony.  I am switching now, for a time, to plastic foundation to determine whether this is an appropriate alternative.  And I am purchasing assembled frames rather than building them myself.  Yes it costs about 30 percent more but it saves me hours of monotonous frame-building.

Mirror Hive

I do not have an updated picture to show you, but this hive has now bounced back and is thriving.  Reviewing, you may remember that I requeened this hive with a Carniolan that I had shipped to me.  She has clearly taken on the task with enthusiasm and shame on me for having been slow to add a second box, which I will do shortly.  I recommend constant feeding to your hive until the second deep is filled with comb.  The good news is that the bees continue to find nectar upon which to forage and I have one hive that is now five boxes (mediums) tall, and needs additional room as we speak.  Urban beekeeping rocks for honey!

Nucleus Colony Production

I have been taking frames where I can from my own hives, and from a few I manage, to create nucleus colonies for summer-starters.  I usually grab one frame of honey, a couple of frames of brood, and then two empty frames checker-boarded in between for a 5-frame nuc.  I purchase queens that I have shipped (winter-hearty and mite resistant) and introduce all to the rooftop nuc nursery,
The Nucleus Colony Nursery

where the new colonies get fed for a couple weeks.  During this time I can confirm that the queen has been accepted and is laying, and the comb is substantially built on the two empty frames.  Oh, and the original brood has begun to emerge increasing the worker population.

Any new DC beekeepers out there??

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