Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, considered the father of the modern moveable-frame hive, more importantly discovered the concept of “bee space”. He observed that bees have an optimal amount of space between comb and between the combs and frames and the outer perimiters of the hive interior. This space is about one centimeter or 3/8 of an inch. Less than this space, and the bees will fill it with propolis. More than this space, and they will start to build comb. The picture below, left, shows how honey bees, during a strong nectar flow, built free-form burr comb in a super left on the hive with no frames. On the right, a shim used for feeding sugar or treating with ApiGuard was left on the hive during a nectar flow:
Varroa, a mite that parasitizes honey bees, vectors a variety of viruses. One of the most identifiable is Deformed Wing Virus (DWV). Honey bees infected with DWV cannot fly and can be seen walking away from the hive. Shown in this picture is a bee that is suffering from DWV transmitted by varroa mites:
Honeybees are excellent temperature regulators. In the cold they cluster together, consuming honey and shivering to produce warmth. In heat and humidity, house bees will cluster, or “beard”, on the outside of the hive to reduce the temperature and congestion inside the hive. Other house bees will set up a line of workers all in the same direction fanning with their wings to set up air circulation. They will also fill empty cells with water and fan using evaporative cooling to bring the temperature in the hive down, a good reason to always have a source of water nearby so they don’t decide your neighbor’s swimming pool is a watering hole. State Apiarist Tim Schuler provided the following short video clip to show what bearding looks like.
Once the video has downloaded to your computer, double click on a video to view it, single click to pause it.
A Northwest member wrote, “I am a long-time beekeeper but have only one experience getting wild bees from a hollow tree. It was not successful. A friend called tonight and said his loggers cut down a bee tree on his property and he’d like to retrieve the bees out of the hollow tree. I am looking for general advice so I can help him.”
There are two methods for retrieving bees from a tree. One is very quick and involves a chain saw; the other is slow and involves a nuc with brood and the ability to install an exit-only screen over the entrance to the tree. For the chain saw method, see the Central Jersey website.
For the slow process you need to seal the entrance to the tree off with an 18″ wire mesh cone with a 3/8″ opening at the end. Place a nuc or single story hive with a queen and brood with its entrance as close to the opening at the end of the mesh cone as possible. The bees will be able to leave the tree, but not get back in and will go into the hive you’ve placed there for them. This will take four to six weeks. There are some pictures of trapouts at www.backwardsbeekeepers.com.
A Morris-Somerset members has a strong and building hive. “I have three honey supers on and wonder if reversing them might help promote honey development and storage. The 1st (lowest) is 90% full and 70% capped. The second is 60% full and 30% capped and the uppermost is new so they are just beginning to draw comb on empty Pierco frames. Should I leave them as is or would I (or the bees) benefit from swapping the position. I do not have an upper hive entrance.”
State Apiarist Tim Schuler’s response was, “Just let them go.” Some alternatives are ‘bottom supering’ (moving the top honey super of foundation to the bottom just above the brood chambers), “top supering” (leaving your current configuration) or “baiting” (moving a couple frames where bees are already storing nectar with empty frames of added supers. If the hive is booming and most of the brood chambers are full of brood with not very much honey in the top of the upper brood chamber to act as a barrier, the queen may cross over into the bottom honey super to expand the brood nest if you’re not using a queen excluder. Since your bees seem to be having no problem drawing out the new foundation and working in all three honey supers and you’re not dealing with three honey supers of already drawn comb, it’s probably best to leave well enough alone.
A Northwest members has a hive installed from a package in early April that appears to be swarming. She added a second deep around May 22nd. The frames in the second deep were not all drawn out, but they were filled with a lot of honey. Bees left the hive, flew around for about half an hour and finally settled back on the hive, bearding outside, under the hive. She opened the hive and destroyed about six queen cells, which she wasn’t sure had queens that had emerged. She added a honey super, but many bees are still bearding outside the hive entrance. She asks if she should remove the feeder when adding a honey super and, “What is next?”
State Apiarist Tim Schuler notes that “Swarms can be fickle”. They can start, then return, then leave later. The hive could be queenless, and you were probably late getting a honey super on. Never destroy swarm queen cells, those typically found at the bottom of the frames between hive bodies, because if the bees have, in fact, swarmed with the original queen, you have now left the hive queenless. Hopefully, you missed a queen cell, or the queens had already emerged. Tim advises you wait a week or two to give a new queen time to mate and start laying and then check the hives for eggs. You stop feeding when you add honey supers as you don’t want the bees to store sugar syrup.
NB: A queen cell is capped on about day eight after the egg was laid. A swarm is typically pitched about when the queen cells are capped or shortly thereafter. The new queens emerge about 16 days after the eggs were laid. The surviving queen will go on her mating flights when she is between 6 and 13 days old, but mating occurs primarily on the 7th and 8th days according to Dr. Dewey M. Caron. He also states that within 2-1/2 days of mating, a queen can produce fertilized eggs, In a study of 56 queens, they were all laying within five days of mating. Based on when you see capped queen cells and the development and mating time frames, you will be able to better calculate when you should see eggs after a swarm or a supersedure.
Only a handful of bees remain from a package hived at the end of April.
Two packages were purchased and hived at the end of April by a new South Jersey beekeeper. Both seemed to be doing well, but one was always smaller than the other. One has only drawn a little comb, some drone brood, has very few bees and may be queenless. She was the winner of the complete hive at the May meeting and it is doing great; ready for the second deep. Her question is, can she combine the dwindling hive with the strong one using a piece of newspaper between the boxes, or should she purchase a new queen?
Yes, you can combine the few bees from the dwindling hive with one of your stronger hives by placing the weak hive on top of the strong one above a sheet of newspaper that you have put some small slits in. The bees will chew through the newspaper in short order and you can remove the empty box a few days later. Alternatively, you can purchase a new queen. There are not enough bees in your dwindling hive to release and support a new queen, but if you give them a frame of sealed brood and a frame of open brood from your strong hive and feed, feed, feed, you may be able to recover, says Tim Schuler, NJ Apiarist. With so few bees and so little comb drawn out, earlier inspections and comparison to your second package which was building may have alerted you to the problem sooner. It is not atypical that early packages have queens that are not mated as well as queens that are produced later in the spring.
A new Morris-Somerset beekeeper has two hives started from over-wintered nucs purchased in the middle of May. Neither has “attacked the syrup since I began feeding the day I brought them home”. One of the hives is “hammering” the protein patty he put in a few days ago, while the other “doesn’t have a single bee on it”. During an inspection a week ago, both hives were active and growing, and both had eggs and larvae. He asks, “Can I draw any conclusions regarding one hive’s greater activity in taking supplemental feed versus the other hive’s lack of activity (without opening them up for an inspection, which I don’t want to do since it’s so windy)?
Tim Schuler advises that as long as both are growing, not to worry. You can’t judge the strength of a colony by the activity at the entrance. By the middle of May, the main nectar flow was underway, and bees prefer fresh nectar to honey syrup. However, while foundation needs to be drawn out into comb, keep feeding as the bees will utilize it when they can’t fly. Based on their genetics, some colonies are “pollen hoarders” while others are not. Wait for a less windy day to inspect!
Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory
The Bee Lab conducts research on the biology and control of honey bee parasites, diseases, and pests to ensure an adequate supply of bees for pollination and honey production.
Since 1997 the Mid Atlantic Apiculture & Extension Consortium has been a task force focused on apiculture research in our area. Includes members from NJ, MD, DE, WV, VA, PA and Beltsville Bee Lab.
NJ Bee Inspection
New Jersey Department of Agriculture Beekeeping Resources, Inspection, Statutes