I always try and do a quick hive inspection in February just to check and see if all the hives have survived the winter. To my great disappointment this February I discovered that we had lost two hives over the winter months. We had a very harsh winter this year but I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the hives collapse. Our spring came really late and from February until May we lost another hive and back in February this hive looked to be healthy.
We've now had bee hives for about four years, I think, and we're still learning so much about the bees. Probably one of the hardest lessons learned last summer was don't add a super (or box) onto the hive too far in advance of them needing it. It's such a fine line, if you wait too long they feel out of space and they'll swarm. Last year I'm pretty sure I gave a hive a super before they were ready for it and it gave them too much territory to patrol and it allowed wax months to get the upper hand and take over the hive. That was my fault and I felt terrible about it.
We opened our remaining two hives today. It's always necessary to smoke the hive before you begin. Start by puffing smoke into the hive entrance and wait a couple of minuets before opening the hive. Once you open the hive then give a few puffs of smoke from the top of the open hive. Maybe you already know all of this information but there could be someone who doesn't know this. It's taken a lot of painful bee stings before I was able to convenience my husband of this procedure. It's much less stressful on the hive and the husband if you use smoke.
The hives seemed to be healthy, they're foraging, capping honey and raising brood. I did see some queen cells being produced in one hive, so it's looking like they will swarm soon. I need to keep an eye on them, I would like to catch the swarm and start a new hive.
We added new beetle traps to the hives. I put 2 in each hive, they work very well. Fill with oil, I use vegetable, or mineral oil. The bees chase the beetles around and they run to hid in the holes of the trap and drown in the oil. Hive beetles are probably our worst problem. Our hives are sitting in a slightly shaded area and really need to be moved into the direct sun, no shade. Beetles don't like a hot hive.
We opened the hives that collapsed over the winter just to take a look and see if we could tell what had happened. Each hive had a full box of uneaten honey, so that tells me that they didn't starve. Some of you more experienced bee keepers, if you have any ideas for us to check for let us know. We would love to hear what you have to say.
Hive collapse is a serious problem here in the US and we need to do all that we can to help the bees.
Share your words of wisdom about bee keeping with us, we would love to hear from you. I'll leave you with these words that I know to be true.
If you find honey, eat just enough - too much of it, and you will vomit.
Have a blessed day!