Well, here we are. The end of summer and the beginning of a looooooooong winter. At least here in New York.
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August marks the third month since receiving our hives, but for Beekeepers, August marks a New Year.
July is usually the month that Beekeepers remove and extract their honey. We were able to extract a couple of frames worth of honey from our hives. We will talk more about that later.
When extracting the honey, Beekeepers need to make sure they don't take too much. Taking too much means the hive will not have enough to last them through the winter. How do you know how much to take?
That is a simple question with a very complex answer. It all depends.
Every colony can be different. The climate, weather, ventilation, structure of the hive and the kind and quantity of bees are just a few examples. It is very hard to predict, but here is a general guideline:
On average, bees in the southern U.S. may live on as little as 40 pounds of honey (18 kg). Bees in the middle states need about 60 pounds (27 kg) and northern bees may require 80 or 90 pounds (36-41 kg) of honey to last them through the winter. This will assure a generous supply of food for your bees.
This brings us back to the beginning...
In August, the bees are searching for their final nectar before winter. Now that we know how much food to leave them, we need to do some inspecting...
As you know, if you've been a follower of our blog or are a member of The BUZZ, we started out with 3 Italian Bee colonies.
(If you're not a member yet, sign up for a free subscription which offers exclusive access to discount codes, recipes, updates on Bo's Bees and Bo's Honey Brown Hot Sauce, and information on living a healthy lifestyle.)
Last time we talked about Bo's Bees, all 3 of our hives were progressing nicely. That has since changed.
So let's discuss the current situation of our hives...
Right now, at the end of August/beginning of September, the hives should have at least 70 pounds of honey or more to be able to make it through winter. We can weigh the hives different ways:
1) Tilting - Tilt your hive on a non-digital, heavy-duty bathroom scale that can handle a lot of weight.
Carefully tilt your hive to one side and slide the scale underneath it. Write down the weight. Now repeat this for the opposite side of the hive. Add the two weights together. This should give you an idea of the weight of your hive.
2) Lifting - It may be possible to lift your entire hive up onto a scale. Depending on the number of boxes, the number of bees and the volume of brood, honey, comb, etc., you can attach a very durable strap to the hive and lift the entire thing onto a bathroom scale.
If you’re not able to do that, it’s also possible to open up the hive and lift each individual box onto the scale...Pros: It's accurate and more manageable than lifting the entire thing at once. Cons: It involves opening the hive and disturbing your bees.
3) SolutionBee - SolutionBee focuses "on developing cost effective, easy to use solutions for the commercial and hobbyist beekeeper alike." They offer a "Smart Hive Monitor" which measures and stores weight and temperature readings every 15 minutes. These readings are very precise and can measure even very slight changes in beehive weight. Hive monitors can be read either with a handheld device such a smartphone or remotely and automatically using SolutionBee's "Smart Data Collector." The B-ware™ Data Collector is the data information gateway to the Internet for monitoring your beehives remotely and automatically.
If your hives weigh enough, your bees should have sufficient food for winter.
If your hives do not weigh enough, you will want to begin feeding a two parts sugar to one part water syrup.
Be sure you use only pure cane sugar and not beet sugar or organic sugar, both of which will make your bees sick.You will also want to use an in-hive feeder to prevent robbing from happening.
Another route is to remove honey from other colonies that have extra honey and place it in the hives that are in need.
How do Bo's Bees measure up? Well...
HIVE 1 = Dunzo! 😭
Hive 1 was our weaker hive to begin with. This was the hive that we needed to peel back the Queen cage and let her out ourselves. We thought from the looks of things that the colony would repopulate, just at a slower pace, but now we are left to believe that the hive either swarmed, or was robbed. In either case, we believe we may have had the hives too close together, or this could have been prevented. There was no honey to be found in the hive.
Therefor, we took the top Brood Chamber from this hive, and put it on Hive #2. Why?....
HIVE 2 = Strong 💪
Hive 2 has been our strongest hive from the beginning. It is doing exceptionally well. Could this be because they robbed Hive 1? We're not sure, but if you have any experience or input please let us know in the comments!
We have not weighed this hive yet, but from prior experience we have an idea that each hive will need the bottom Brood Chamber fully filled to get them through winter.
This hive currently has a bottom Brood Chamber, a middle Brood Chamber and the top is a Brood Chamber that we took from Hive #1, as we discussed above.This will act as the Honey Super. The difference being the size. Brood chambers, or deep chambers, are 10" deep. Honey Supers are 6" or 8".
The bees in this hive have already started filling the top Honey Super (the top Brood Chamber from Hive 1 that we moved to the top of Hive 3.) You can see our son getting a nice spoonful of our awesomely delicious honey!😋
We will be attempting a Honey extraction this weekend...wish us luck! (More details on that in the next Bo's Bees segment.)
We have left the middle Brood Chamber so that the bees can finish capping the honey, as you can see above.
HIVE 3 = Middle Of The Road
Compared to the other two hives, this hive has been in the middle.
Hive 3 currently has a bottom Brood Chamber and a top Brood Chamber. The bottom chamber is almost full. You can see from the photos below what happens when you leave the frames too far apart.
To completely fill it, we have switched out a full frame from the middle Brood Chamber in Hive #2 (our strongest hive) with one in the bottom Brood Chamber of this hive, Hive #3.
...And then there were two...
Now that we know the status of our hives, as the beekeepers, we need to do some hive management. Here are a few things we should look at to prepare for winter:
A) Requeening - Since our hives are new and young, there is no need for us to requeen this year. This is something we can come back to a year from now and take another look at when our queens are older or the hives are weaker.
Breading season is over and the drones from Hives 2 and 3 have served their purpose of establishing new queens and will soon die off. This is the time to focus our efforts on keeping the two hives strong and healthy during the winter months.
B) Mites - The queens have been laying fewer eggs and the number of bees in the hives have declined. The decline of bees could mean the mite count is likely to climb. More mites per bee can put your bees on edge and a mite count of 5% or more likely means your hive is in trouble. Treatment should be considered if you are concerned. We have found one mite, leaving us with little concern.
C) Removing Supers - At this point, there is no need for the excess Supers. All but the bottom chamber can be removed for winter. This is all they need to survive the cold season.
You can either extract what you have, or wrap it for the next year.
D) Robbing - With multiple hives, we must be careful. As we can see, we may have already had one hive rob another. You should be careful not to open hives for a long period of time, as other colonies may try to come in and steal honey.
Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks to find out how our extraction went and the method we used.
Fingers crossed to a mild winter! 🤞