Saturday, April 22, 2017, I hived two packages of Italian bees from Stedman's Bee Supplies in Silverdale, Washington. This will be my second season as a beekeeper.
As I will be tracking my progress on FriendswithGardens.com throughout the season, I wanted to record information about each hive - information that I can look back on when evaluating hive performance or analyzing anything that might go wrong.
I have two hives; they will be referred to as Hive A and Hive B. I set up both very differently, so it will be interesting to see how they do in relation to one another. In both hives are five fully drawn frames and five empty frames. But that's where the commonality ends. During the installation, the temperature remained at 50-degrees. Shortly after, it started to rain and it did not stop for hours - effectively keeping the bees contained. There were breaks in the rain, however, where I could observe orientation flights.
Hive A (the one I am looking at in this photo):
This hive has a screened bottom board. For now, I have slid a piece of plywood in from the back so the hive has a solid bottom, rather than screened. When the weather warms, I will remove the bottom. A standard entrance reducer wouldn't fit this setup (too high) so I made my own. There is an opening large enough to fit three of my fingers into. I would have reduced it further but didn't have the materials. On top of the frame is a hive top feeder, pictured leaning up against the front middle of the hive stand. In it are four quarts of syrup (mixture 50/50 sugar and water). That should hold them the seven to nine days before my first inspection. Over the hive feeder is a standard inner cover and hive cover. All in all, a pretty basic setup. Of the two frames hived today, this was the last.
Notes: Queen and package installation went smoothly. Within an hour of installation, bees were out and about, crawling up the front of the hive and doing orientation flights.
Hive B (already assembled in this photo):
This hive has a screened bottom board. Unlike Hive B, it is open on the bottom, not covered by a temporary piece of plywood. To keep the frames up a bit higher, I used a slatted board between the screened bottom board and deep super. In the super are the ten frames referred to earlier - five with fully drawn foundation. Over the top of the frames is an inner cover, but I put a piece of wire screen over the hole, blocking it. Atop that is an empty deep super - empty meaning no frames are in it but inside, a half-gallon Mason jar of sugar syrup sits over the screened inner cover hole. Its lid is perforated, turning it into a gravity feeder. The piece of wire screen is there so when I change out the syrup, no bees can fly out and I'm disturbing the hive as little as possible. Around the mason car is a wadded up bedsheet, to give it a bit of insulation. Over the top of the hive is the cover.
Both hives sit on a custom hive stand, built last year. There is room on this hive stand for three hives, so the two are separated by about three feet.
Notes: Queen and package installation did not go smoothly for this hive. Due to my blunder, the queen got out of her queen cage. I know she is in the hive but not in the cage. This will likely result in package failure if the bees aren't ready to accept her, so I will check back in a week to determine if I need to order a new queen. Hopefully they have had time to get acquainted in transit, but we'll see. After installation and hive assembly, I did hear the bees buzzing inside the hive and that did not give me a good feeling about the fate of the queen. An hour after install, this hive was far less active than Hive A, with only a few bees out and about and only a few doing orientation flights. I will keep a close watch.
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It just occurred to me that last year, my queen bee wasn't even IN the cage when I opened the package. Somehow, she made it out in transit and had mingled in with the rest of the package... And that hive did just fine. So ... fingers crossed...
Thanks, Paul. My only concern is the time that will take. Stedman's has queens available or can have one here in three days. I did consider just letting nature take its course... I guess I could as I really don't have any intention of taking honey this year, I just want to focus on building strong hives with strong reserves - hence not wanting to lose any time. We'll see when I open the hive. Hope your hives are strong and bustling!