June bee checkup

My girls are doing great!

No sign of small hive beetle – though the girls seemed a bit tetchy so I pulled only two or three frames for inspection. Those nasty beetles could be (probably are) still there, but if I didn’t see them running they are under control at the moment. I also saw no larvae.

We’ve got a very good queen here!

Before the bee inspection, I put an entire (unoccupied!) shallow super (shallow, to lessen the territory the bees have to defend), complete with last year’s frames and foundation, into my oven at 170*F for half an hour, hoping to kill any residual SHB eggs. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, so I have no idea if it works… but it seems better than nothing. Wish I would have left it to bake longer, but I didn’t have time today.

I have also heard of putting bee equipment in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the eggs, but there are conflicting reports on whether that really works or not.

Baking the box sure made the house smell beautiful. There is no smell quite as good as that of natural beeswax. Baking bee hives probably isn’t likely to catch on as the next most popular air freshener, though. A bit bulky, and heavy on the dead bees.

Up it went on top of the brood deep.

Congratulations, Darjeeling, you’ve graduated to a 2-box hive! Now please… please… kill those nasty beetles and survive so I can have honey next year.

A friend brought up splits this morning and got me thinking. Is it possible, since I am not hoping to harvest honey from these guys this year (because I’ve been feeding them syrup), I could make a split from them instead? Could I take the shallow box off the top of Darjeeling (once it’s full of brood) and set it up as a second colony?

I don’t know if a) a split has to be done at a certain time of year or b) if using a shallow would work – most people do splits with full frames in half-narrow boxes (called ‘nucs’, which I don’t have). Anyone have any tips?

4 Responses to “June bee checkup”

  1. Ayse Says:

    You could do a split, though I prefer to do them when there is a flow on, and I don’t know what your local weather is like. I’ve been eyeing my two hives from packages this year with an eye to splitting in the next couple weeks. I wouldn’t want to split after that because we have a dearth before the autumn flows here. It all depends on your local flows. I don’t like splitting in the middle of a dearth.

    Remember to feed heavily and reduce the entrance on both hives; splits are very vulnerable to robbing.

    Also, I would reconsider using a shallow as a split. You won’t be able to add brood from the rest of the hive (because every one of your boxes is a different size), so it’s too dangerous. I like the method of splitting where the queen and a small cohort get split to a new hive with some honey and clean comb — you know she’s good so let them take advantage of a smaller hive — and the remaining large hive gets all the brood and most of the resources. Make sure there are eggs there, but there should be if your queen is good.

    That method also gives you a break in the brood cycle (if you don’t move brood along with the queen) in both sides of the split, which will help with varroa issues.

    I have all my boxes the same size so if something goes wrong I can start adding a frame of eggs every week until the bees can make a new queen. If you’re going to split into the shallow you need some more shallow frames ready to be filled with eggs by the good queen.

    What’s that between the medium and the shallow? It looks like an inner cover.

  2. Diana Guillermo Says:

    Thanks Ayse, that makes a lot of sense. Someone else also recently advised me to either split during a flow or feed heavily. I believe our flow is over for the spring, but due to the extended cold weather and unceasing rain, who knows? Dearth is usually mid-July to mid-August. I won’t work the bees then because they are too ornery.

    You know, I bet I could make a deep nuc for myself. If I have frames already, it just shouldn’t be that hard. Could I even perhaps just affix a wooden divider in a deep box? Since I used to have three full hives, I have lots of empty boxes.

    Yup, it’s an inner cover. From the bottom: deep, shallow, inner cover (was using it to hold pollen patties), styrofoam top feeder.

  3. Ayse Says:

    Ah, OK, I misread that as a medium; I’ve gotten out of practise at spotting body sizes. If you have only enough bees to fill a single deep, you won’t have enough to make a split safely. You’d want to have the equivalent of two deeps overflowing with bees before you consider a split in a weird weather year where dearth and flow may not happen when you expect them. That you’re feeding in a flow is not a good sign of strength and split-ability. Build these guys up before you consider splitting off.

    I’d never use a shallow for a brood box, but I’ve also never dealt with SHB. What’s your plan for when they fill this box? Another shallow? My experience with shallows is bees hate them.

  4. Diana Guillermo Says:

    Ah, ok! I can see how that would work. I’m feeding by default because they arrived a month after nectar flow (grr), but for what it’s worth they’re not taking it down so they seem to be finding other sources. I will build them up a bunch first then. Does anyone ever do splits in the fall?

    My plan for when this shallow was full was… I dunno, another shallow I guess? I don’t want to give them a whole empty deep, though I probably should have, because a population spread too thin cannot combat SHB.

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