It has been a busy month for urban beekeeper Erica. Keeping her bees from swarming, preparing for summer, there is more to keeping bees than you would think! Let’s hear her tell all about it in this month’s bee update.
May has been a very busy month. A strange kind of busy. While it has been too cold for the season on the whole, there have been some moments when the sun came out. Then suddenly the bees would be working very hard in the short amount of time.
They are so busy because it’s time to swarm. When that happens, the queen goes off and flies away with a part of the bees. It’s a natural way of increasing the number of bees or colonies. Over the past year, the colony has grown quite a lot, and has gotten almost too big for the hive. The workers have raised a few young queens in swarm cells. When the first one emerges from her cell, the old queen knows it’s time to leave. The swarm is a beautiful sight!
But, as a beekeeper you want to prevent your bees from swarming. One way to do that is to split a hive. You can, for example, take the queen and a fair amount of workers from the hive, to put them in another (smaller) hive somewhere else. The bees in the “old” hive will miss the queen. Knowing they need to replace the queen, they will begin feeding royal jelly to a young larva they have selected (supersedure cells) They build a cell around this larva (or several larvae) and it hangs down from the face of the comb (see picture below an oversize structure attached to the comb in which a queen will be raised). If everything goes well, the bees in the old hive will then lose their desire to swarm. (I have to admit I now indicate a simple situation. Unfortunately, in reality there are many ways to split a hive and it usually does not go so smoothly)
It was also time to buy some new materials and to paint the boxes. One of the things I bought were honey frames, equipped with a foundation, made from beeswax. The foundation is meant to help the bees get started. It’s a nice base on which they can build their cells.
I recently got a beautiful hive of braided reed, also called a skep, from my aunt. She used to be a beekeeper as well, and this one happened to still be standing around in her attic. When she still had bees, she had lovely skeps in her garden. That is where my interest in bees all began. Keeping bees in such houses, instead of normal hives is a very different kind of thing, but with such a beautiful skep, I’m willing to take the challenge!
Do you remember me mentioning the “sun hive” a few months ago? Well, it’s finished and will soon be put to use. You can see it in the picture below, complete with a honey super (that in this picture is still on the ground). It has become a beautiful residence!
Unfortunately, the honeycombs in my hives are still a bit empty. And that while we are longing for the delicious spring-honey. But the forecast for the first part of June looks promising and the days should soon get warmer. Let’s just hope it keeps true to that!