After the disheartening spring, we had with almost 80% of my hives not wintering I wasn’t too interested in keeping up this blog. July is fast becoming super encouraging to me, it also made me realize a few things about bees and the way they do things that I had missed before.
The first thing is we are having the best honey flow I have ever seen, in only one week (the week after being housed) a big swarm I caught put up a full box of honey, I had to make room for more comb! I was stunned, I have never seen this before. One thing I did differently was I had added an empty box of drawn comb, so they just needed to fill the comb with honey.
This revelation got me thinking about the colony’s needs and working processes. I have heard the idea before that drawing comb uses up honey, I have also heard folks say that drawing comb all the time is hard on the bees. I actually do not believe either of these opinions is accurate, they are both true in a way but not impactful enough to honey production to make any real difference, I think the real issue is time, it takes time to draw comb, but a flow can be short and intense, so since drawing comb takes time not enough can be drawn to take full advantage of a heavy flow in the time needed.
This means a colony will expand at a steady rate (wax-making bees are proportional to colony size since they are comprised of bees at a certain age) even if you have a lot of nectar available. In a way, no empty comb is hard on the bees since we take honey from them at the end of the year and they have essentially missed a lot of big short flows.
Another thing this year is we had an astronomical amount of rain, almost all of May just rained most of June was rain as well. I thought my bees were doomed because of this but the opposite was true. When the weather cleared up they filled almost every space available to them in less than two weeks. This brings up an interesting point for my region of the world our plants need rain to flourish so hot dry weather won’t produce much nectar, but this isn’t true everywhere it depends on your local ecology.
Something I have given up on is supering. I have not been able to get a colony to move down to a new box, they just don’t, so I put new boxes on top of the hive and add/move straight comb to them to encourage the bees to start building comb nice and straight. Since you are only adding boxes to strong hives I don’t see a problem with “cooling” issues, I have wintered bees with empty boxes above them before, with no problems.
Another pleasant thing is the genetics of my apiary, I have seven hives now and 5 of those are all descended from hive #5, I have seen virtually no bad drones being kicked out and zero chalkbrood the bees look fantastically healthy, this is interesting since I do not treat them for anything and do not use foundation.
#5 has survived for 4 years in my apiary, It has made two nucs, swarmed once, and made a division this year (plus the nuc)
I’m curious to know if everyone is experiencing a larger than normal honey flow due to the wet weather.
- I will be making an extractor fitted to my size frames and saving the comb to be used next year for honey.
- I am no longer under super.
- I think drawn comb is very important to honey production and thus on a lesser scale bee health (since honey production can lead to better bee health if you leave them, honey, to winter on).
- I still leave them, honey, in the winter, I also still don’t use foundation or treat them for anything.
- I never use queen excluders and I don’t re-queen in the traditional sense (supplying eggs is the extent I go).
- I think as far as I can know the COD for 80% of my losses last year was starvation (a very bad year).