It's amazing what chlidern can do these days with their electronic devices. Above is a video we posted to YouTube that Caroline created 100% on her own, using her iPad mini and the iMovie app. Hopefully many more to come as we are trying to make a project out of a series of educational videos and presentations geared towards elementary school aged children. Stay tuned...
We just finished a split, by taking four frames from the Genesis hive, to create the new Leviticus hive and introducing a mated queen, Caroline! The queen was purchased from Betsey Spencer who rears queens. Betsey was very helpful walking us through the process as this was the first time we've purchased and introduced a mated queen. Last year we let the hives re-queen themselves.
The queen is marked, meaning she has a white dot of paint on her thorax, which makes her easier to locate when inspecting the hive. White is the marking color for this year (2016). There is a five year color rotation (white, yellow, red, green, blue) which helps us beekeepers keep track of the queen's age, or if the hive superceded her or swarmed. The first photo is Caroline holding the queen cage, which included the queen and five attendants (nurse worker bees). The cage was placed in the new hive with the top still on for three days, to allow the queen pheromone to propagate the hive and allow her to gain acceptance. Then the top was removed exposing the candy core which the bees ate through over the next two days, releasing the queen into the hive. When I checked this afternoon, the queen cage was empty (photo 2), so it was removed. I spotted the queen in the hive, but she disappeared before I could get to my camera for her photo op.
We harvested our first ever batch of honey last week, on Wednesday, July 6th at the WFBC kitchen. My bee buddy Gene Cross and I borrowed a honey extractor and other equipment from our bee club, the 5CBA. Probably 8 or 10 people from the community garden showed up to observe and help. The process is first to decap the honey cells with a knife. We used Gene's hot knife which literally melts off the wax cappings. Next, the frames were placed in an extractor which spins and uses centrifugal force to spin out the honey. Then, the honey was run through a double sieve/strainer to remove wax particles, propolis and other debris. Finally, a gasketed lid was place on our commercial food-grade 5 gallon bucket, where it is allowed to settle for a week. This allows air bubbles, etc. to rise to the top, leaving all the good stuff underneath. Then, we simply opened up the honey gate on the bottom of the bucket to fill the bottles, and voila, all natural North Carolina Wildflower Honey!
Bee Fact: It takes 12 honey bees working their entire life to make 1 teaspoon of honey.
So our first hive, Genesis, swarmed on/around May 5th. Sad to see our first queen leave, especially with so many of the girls. They did leave a medium honey super behind, almost completely full of honey. I've done the math, read articles and in my mind know how long it takes for a colony to re-queen itself, but it still takes patience to let it play out. I did check for and found queen cells after the swarm, but after a month I started to wonder as the number of foragers continued to dwindle (I did check the hive a week or two before and saw no sign of new laying queen). Well, today I went into the hive expecting to have to intervene and add a frame of eggs/young larva from our other hive, but was so happy to see three frames in the top brood box with larva and even some capped brood! Also, one frame over from the brood I found this frame with some really colorful pollen (picture doesn't do the color brilliance justice). I know bees have been doing this without human intervention for millions of years, but still awesome to see it first hand with our hives!
Caroline was tracked out from school and had been spending some time with Mama Jane. We decided to meet at Bailey's Bee Supply, which is in Hillsborough, NC (between Greensboro and Wake Forest). I needed to get some more honey super equipment so it seemed like a nice central location for the daughter hand off. In addition to the honey super equipment, we decided to get Caroline a bee suit. That afternoon she was with me at the apiary, all suited up, for our first apiary inspection together. By the way, that day she took the picture of the frame with the bees building out the foundation we're using as the background image for the Web site.
We overwintered both hives with a candy board and a quilt board. The original hive (Genesis) was very active over the winter and had built a good bit of burr comb into the space vacated by the girls eating the candy board. What you see above are the additional deeps and the top feeders I added to the hives after I took off the candy and quilt boards. The aluminum tray was for the burr comb. I believe the three most important things for successful overwintering are to one, reduce varroa mite load in the Fall; two, keep the bees fed; and three, keep them dry. The quilt board keeps them dry and warm (bonus!). A Master Beekeeper friend of mine has a simple formula to keep in mind: cold bees + wet bees = dead bees.