This year, when trying to set some goals for the future of our homestead, one of the key things we’ve decided to focus on is expanding the apiary to build up our honey production abilities on the farm. This goal in mind, plus our unfortunate 75% winter hive loss, drove the choice to increasing the number of production hives from 2 to 5. If all goes well, we should be able to have a modest honey harvest from the new hives this year – and next year, the hives that last the winter should be able to produce a higher volume next spring.
In preparation for the arrival of our new packages of bees, I’ve spent the past couple weeks assembling a ton of new equipment.
The boxes are the easy part… assembling the frames on the other hand… while it saved a ton of money, time consuming doesn’t even begin to describe it. We’ve got about 140 frames to assemble – some for the brood boxes, but a lot for the honey supers across the hives. I had read of some people using a jig to aid in the assembly, so we worked on rigging one up out of a shallow super we don’t use.
It took some finagling… and some getting used to.. but all in all, it actually does seem to make parts of it faster – and more importantly, they come up far more square than the ones I made before the jig.
First up on the expansion: Package bees.
We purchased two packages of Italian bees from a local shop, Spicer Bees, which goes down to Georgia to pick them up each spring from Rossman’s Apiary.
When refreshing myself with videos online about the “thump and dump” method of installing the package into the hive, I started to see a lot popping up about different methods that don’t involve trying to shake the bees out. And.. on pick up day, Spicer Bees had a new piece of equipment they were selling… a Bee Funnel. You hook it up on the outside of the hive, flip the package upside down, and in 20 minutes (or awhile longer), they crawl down and out, and into the hive. It worked quite well, and definitely made things easier.
[photo note: the photo at the top of the page shows our install of the packages]
Second up on the expansion list: Nucs
We’re purchasing 2 Nuc colonies from a local beekeeper. These will be ready in May, and we’ll move them right into production hives.
And.. the one surviving colony from 2016-2017 winter.. The surviving Nuc.. while it’s been slow going – they’re still alive, and finally this weekend we saw two frames with large areas of capped brood – a sign that the queen is starting to be very active again. I beekeeping frequently with some friends who live almost an hour and half south, and I’m learning that we tend to be about a week behind them on bee activity, flowers, green grass, etc. Last week, I was a bit dismayed to see that my Nuc was not doing as well… but, this weekend, it seems to just be an issue of timing and things happening later here, because while they are smaller in size, they activity is now looking on par.
Fingers crossed everything will go smoothly this season!