Hello Fellow Beekeepers
I wanted to give everyone an update with regard to the beekeeping season thus far. We are now in the first stage of the nectar season and there is a slight nectar flow happening at this time. Your colonies should be robust and I have noticed the following:
1) Swarm season – I caught my first feral swarm of the season on April 9 in the Red Lick area at a friend’s property. It was a nice 8 frame swarm box with 9 cracks of bees – so it was pretty strong. I will try to place a picture of this swarm below :
I also caught my first swarm yesterday at my apiary, this was a little smaller than the one above. Nevertheless you need to be aware of the start of swarm season – I like to place swarm boxes in my apiary just in case I am not around to see a swarm develop.
2) Nectar season – I have noticed nectar coming into the hives recently and I have already placed my honey supers on top of queen excluders. My hives are very strong this year and I think that the bees need some space to expand into – besides I don’t want to miss the strong flow that will start in a week or so when the black locust blooms.
3) Drawing comb – nectar flow is the time for bees to draw out comb. So if you have the need for drawn comb this is a good time (in my opinion) to get the bees to do this. The bees just don’t seem to want to draw comb later in the year such as in July or August even with feeding – the nectar flow is the best time.
4) Splits – I like to make my splits in early April by removing the overwintered queen and several frames of brood and shakes of nurse bees. I then allow the strong colony (one with at least 6-8 frames of capped brood) to produce queen cells either at the location of the OTS method or by themselves (my experience is that the bees will produce queen cells where they want to anyway) and then allow that hive to requeen itself (after destroying all queen cells except for 2 or 3) or by then splitting that hive into nucs with a capped queen cell.
Below is a new method that I tried this year called a vertical split. This hive was a little unusual since last fall I had a weak hive that I combined with a strong double deep after killing the weak queen. I thus had a hive that came through the winter with 3 deeps. Earlier this spring in mid March Paul and I looked though the hive, the bottom deep had only empty drawn comb and we placed this bottom deep on top of the other two (rotating it).
In early April Paul and I found the queen laying new eggs in the top deep, I then put this deep with the queen on the bottom board (after setting aside the top two deeps) and then placed a queen excluder and two supers. I then placed a double screen on top of the 2nd super and made an opening for the vertical split in the back. The two deeps with eggs, larvae, etc I then placed on top of the double screen (double screen keeps the queens apart and thus from killing each other), then a queen excluder and then two supers. The field bees from the top two deeps will exit the back and then go back into the bottom deep with the front entrance. Hopefully the top two deeps will requeen itself and I will then have two hives on the same location on the hive stand – thus the vertical split. (the question to be answered is will the bees that are – above a double screen that is above two supers above a queen excluder on top of a laying queen in a deep consider themselves queenless and thus make queen cells?!?!) Let’s hope that it works! Notice the excellent camera work by Paul Esker and that the hive stand is located at Algan Lakes apiary (thanks Algan for letting me use your hive as an experiment).
Yes I realize that the bee suit is a little dirty but the bees don’t seem to mind!
Notice also that on the bottom left I have a queen castle consisting of four chambers made up of two frame nucs with separate entrances for requeening purposes. Each chamber has bees and a capped queen cell. I also have two separate 5 frame nucs in the middle that have a large number of bees with each also containing a capped queen cell. I will check these around April 23 to see if they have successfully requeened themselves.
5) Meetings – I have spoken with Brandon Sears at the Extension Agency and there still are no plans for allowing meetings to occur at that location for the time being. I will keep the club updated with regard to when to expect to have the next meeting.
Keep safe this season and I want to recommend that everyone obtain a COVID vaccination. You can easily obtain a vaccination by going to the following site:
This is being offered by a partnership between Baptist Health Richmond, EKU, and the Madison County Health Department at the Perkins building on the EKU campus. I believe that the time frame for obtaining a vaccine is very short and they are more than willing to get you scheduled for an appointment – we will not be able to get over this COVID crisis until we get the majority of people vaccinated.
Kent J Kessler
Madison County Beekeepers