I didn’t have honeybees in 2013 because they had died out over the winter. Many beekeepers in my bee club—the Ashland Virginia Beekeepers Association— suffered losses then. I had three hives in 2012, but going into the winter I knew one was weak and I would probably lose it. I was so busy working on Grow a Sustainable Diet, I decided not to look for replacements last spring. Working on Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people is keeping me busy this year—deadline is July 1—but I didn’t want to go another year without bees. Since I knew ahead of time that I would need bees, I ordered them in December. A friend in the Ashland Beekeepers picks them up each year in Georgia. I would have liked to have gotten local bees, but this was easier than searching them out.
The beeyard sat empty of bees all last year and the wax moths moved in, doing damage to the wax in the frames. Recently on a warm Saturday I took everything apart and put the best back together in two hives to get ready for the newcomers. I prepared one deep box for each package of bees. The first photo shows those hives with the bees safely inside. Soon it will be time to add another deep super to those hives and after that I will need to put a honey super on. Instead of putting everything away in the shed, I cleaned things up and prepared what looks like another hive right in the beeyard. That tall stack has the deep boxes I will need and a honey super for each hive. Not only did I not have to put them in the shed now, I won’t have to drag those boxes out there when I need them.
Knowing what it is like when I move boxes around, I thought I’d put an old metal wagon in the beeyard. The tires are beginning to rot and it is best left in one place, making a perfect bench for setting boxes on. I placed a deep hive body on the wagon with a piece of plywood on top. Now when I am working with the hives, I have a place to set any frames that I take out. The piece of plywood keeps the weather off the box. When I am working with the frames, I’ll put the plywood under the box. If the queen is on the frame I put in there, there will be no worries that she would drop off the frame undetected with the plywood on the bottom. The box is brown because it was painted that color when I received it from a friend.
The extra honey supers on the stack currently have no frames in them. I thought that would be a great place to put things I need, such as my hive tool, bee brush, and Boardman feeders. I put a queen excluder under the honey supers to keep things from falling into the hive bodies.
I prefer to use deep boxes for the bees and shallow boxes for the honey supers. It takes three medium boxes to house a cluster and only two deep boxes. Although the deep boxes are heavier, I like working with them, rather than handling more mediums. One year I received a nuc that had medium frames. When I transferred the frames to my deep boxes, the bees added comb to fill them out. You can see one of those frames in the photo. It goes to show you that the bees know what they are doing and will make comb without foundation, which is what they do in a top bar hive. Building a top bar hive is definitely on my to-do list. Unfortunately, we didn’t get one made this year in time for the new bees. It would be different learning to handle the comb from a top bar without the benefit of the wood frames, but seeing how substantial the comb is that the bees filled out, I look forward to it.
I don’t know why I never thought to make these changes in the beeyard before. The extra boxes and the wagon will make my life easier this summer. Having the extra Boardman feeders already came in handy. I usually put one jar of sugar water in a feeder on the front of each hive, which I did when the bees were installed on March 27. I didn’t have to hunt for the extra feeders when I took off the entrance reducers and added another jar to each hive. There is also a feeder inside each hive that is the size of a frame. We will be traveling this week and I want to fill up all the feeders before we leave so no one will have to tend to the bees while we’re gone. There will be other things our son will be tending to, but not the bees.
The Mother Earth News Fair near Asheville, NC is coming up this weekend. I’ll be there the whole time and will be speaking on Sunday, April 12 at 1pm. If you are looking for me other times, you might find me at the New Society Publishers booth or out and about the Fair. On the way there I’ll be visiting two libraries to give a presentation. I’ll be speaking at the Summers County Public Library in Hinton, WV on Wednesday, April 9 at 3pm and at the Washington County Public Library in Abingdon, VA on April 10 at 6pm. Each library is home to a seed library. Hope to see some of you at these events!