The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Spring swarm prevention and honey equalization

Honeybees with capped broodIn the last week and a half, our three beehives have been churning out the babies.  Last time I checked on them, two hives had a little bit of brood, but now all three hives have brood of all ages on several frames.  They're also packing away pollen like nobody's business, and are starting to dehydrate nectar into new honey.  None of them have started using the second super yet, though --- maybe once the fruit trees and dandelions really start blooming.

In other pleasant news, the raised brood cell that I thought might be an incipient queen cup in one hive earlier in March turned into a bit of drone brood (the few bumps in the photo above), which means I haven't crowded the hive too much.  I went ahead and opened all of the brood boxes up, though, to stave off any feelings of overcrowding in the near future.  "Opening up the brood box" sounds confusing, but it's actually quite simple --- just take the empty frames that naturally gravitate to the sides of the box and intersperse them between frames full of brood and pollen.  As you leaf through the opened brood box from one end to the other, it now reads "empty, full, empty, full, empty, full, empty, full, empty, full" rather than "empty, empty, full, full, full, full, full, empty, empty, empty."  The theory is that if the queen has empty frames near her, she won't think she's running out of space, so she won't instigate a swarm.  Hives that don't swarm produce a lot more honey, so swarm prevention is key to getting a good harvest.

In February, I got concerned that our two weaker hives might be running low on honey, so I stole three frames from the strongest hive to give them backup.  When I checked this week, though, the strongest hive had eaten nearly every drop of its copious honey, presumably fueling the huge egg-laying campaign it has embarked on.  So I moved two small frames of honey back from one of the weaker hives to the strongest hive.  This type of maneuver is a sure sign of a far-too-hands-on beekeeper, but I can't help being a nervous nellie about our livestock.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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