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Brand New Beekeeper with Some Worries


#1

Hey, so as a little history on my beekeeping:
My father and I (I’m in my teens) decided that we wanted to do some beekeeping last year and so we both started reading up on it and yada yada yada, This year comes and we decide to buy a nuc from a local beekeeper. Due to a series of weather and school obligations we were unable to pick up the nuc until the 3rd of this month. (four frames) Initially we had a single 10 frame deep that we filled out with the frames from the nuc and our frames with just wax drippings in most of them. 9 frames in total with the 10th slot being a feeder.

Initially it seemed to go well, The bees (Italian) were extremely aggressive initially however we put this down to them being about ready to swarm as the beekeeper we bought them from said he had around a dozen swarm over the course of two weeks. After they got settled down for a day or two they calmed right down and I’ve had no issues with them.

The bees were rocketing along and in a week had almost filled out one frame and were ~40 % done with another two frames! The others had not yet really been touched. My father had said that we ought to put on the second brood box since they seemed to be going so rapidly although I was questioning this as that week we went to our local beekeepers club meeting (we had been going since we initially started to do this last year) where one of the presenters had mentioned that the rule of thumb was 80%. Putting aside my misgivings we put on the second box and gave it another few days till we went in again. The top box had two frames that had some beautiful white comb dripping down from the top but was hardly anything at all compared to the previous week. My guess is we just got them as the flow near our house was ebbing?

Another thing that I noticed the past two times I’ve gone into the hive is that there are large amounts of flies… I’ve never heard of this problem and I’ve addressed it with some of the locals and they all have the same surprised expression saying that they have no idea (one of those people was our friendly neighborhood apiary inspector). They’ve given me some advice but they’ve made it clear they have never had that issue. I think we might have some moths but I’m hesitant to say this because I have only seen what to me looks like it might be moth damage and any pictures I see online are orders of magnitude more severe than what I see.

To add to my concerns my father bought two more queens and intends to split the hive to support these. I had thought I voiced my opinion that this was a bad idea to me before but I apparently did not speak loudly enough. (I’m very quiet so its probably my fault) So I’m sitting right now typing this with two queens in cages in the bottom of my desk drawer (its the coolest, quiet, and dark place in the house) that seem alive and healthy.

My biggest immediate concern is what to do with the two queens in my room, I worry that splitting the hive into thirds now is a bad idea despite the fact that the one hive on its own seems to be perfectly fine although a bit rushed on its second brood box. But if I don’t then what do I do with the bees sitting beside me? Keep one and let the other one die off?

Thanks for any suggestions and recommendations! I would like a second opinion on this and unfortunately all the beekeepers (even the new ones) in my area are all old enough that they don’t know how to use a computer more than opening up a slide show (and I had to help them with that!) so asking them via email doesn’t really get much of a response.


#2

Hi there @ApiaryNoob - Noah, glad you posted & boy that sounds like a predicament! It can’t be easy sharing just the one hive when you & your dad feel differently about what to do next. I confess that even if I lived near you in North Carolina, I as a second year beekeeper might not be able to judge what’s best and give you a solid opinion, especially without looking at it in person. As much as I tried to learn and do right last year, my first and only colony died in December. I’ve started over with two nucs this year - sad as it was to lose my first hive, I feel a lot more confident this year with the experience and with having two hives!

Would one of the more seasoned members of your club be willing to look at your hive? Their opinion once they see your hive’s status would carry the most weight and might spare you & your dad some needless difficulty.

Then again, some very experienced beekeepers are quite set in their ways, and may have trouble seeing the point of your misgivings and differing opinions, even if they are based on your hard work at learning and research, and especially because they’re coming from a young person.

Hopefully you can get to the same page with your dad - maybe he would also join the forum! Good luck and please keep us posted :blush:


#3

Noah, for sure your dad would be trying to do his best for you and the hive/s and the general consensus is you should try and have at least a couple of hives on the go in case you need some brood etc. down the track.
The other little thing is to remember to keep things compact for strength. I highly recommend the writings of Michael Bush on this and other topics if you haven’t already read them. Finally, in my limited experience, I always get a surprise of some sort when I open up the hive. Things in there are usually more complicated than expected!


#4

Hi Noah, now that you have those 2 queens, a good plan would be to do a 3 way split, seeing as you are in a swarm season. I’m thinking that you could leave the original queen in one split & take it several kilometers away. With the other 2 splits, place them at an equal distance away from the original site, maybe a foot each. With that strategy, an equal number of bees should go into each split. I would recommend using all frames containing wax foundation. That way you will get a stronger workforce in each split.

The last thing I would do is let one of the queens die. Especially knowing that you have a good portion of the season ahead of you for the bees to build up.


#5

Thanks for the feedback, I understand how to do a split but what I worry is that I will only have two frames for each hive with any significant amount of food/brood on them. I had sorted out the frames Thursday and found that if I were to split I would have one frame of a mixture of pollen and honey for each hive and one frame of brood. I’m sure I’m being paranoid what with this being almost the beginning of summer and whatnot but I worry about the amount of food on each hive is very small. Each frame of food weighs about a pound or so. With feeding will this be enough? The current hive that we have has stop drawing out comb which makes me think that they might not draw out more comb for extra stores.

We’ve discussed getting one of the other beekeepers over but that might not happen for another couple of weeks.

Any idea what might be causing the flies though? There are no unusual smells as far as I can tell.


#6

Hi Noah, just about the flies - hopefully someone will help in relation to the split. Are you in a rural area of Pender with cattle nearby? What are the flies doing? Are you saying they are actually in the hive? How big are they and have you ever seen this type of fly before? Can you get a photo by any chance?
Thanks.


#7

haha, now that you mention it I live directly next to a horse ranch. Its possible they are coming from that. However they do appear to be inside the hive and certainly are buzzing about and being a nuisance while working in the boxes while I have them open (less because they are buzzing about, there are plenty of bees doing that, more the fact that they are jumping about on my hands as I’m working). Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of them at the moment I will try to get some when I open it up next, they are small flies too. just about the size of my pinkie nail.

I wish I would have thought of that sooner.


#8

Hi Noah, this is my video of doing a split.


In this video, I had taken 2 splits from 2 hives which I combined into one super before bringing it home. Then I split it again about 3 days later.

All you do is place an empty box on either side of the hive you are splitting. DON"T USE THE ORIGINAL HIVE FOR ONE OF THE SPLITS, unless you are taking it away.

Then proceed to place equal numbers of frames in each split. Equal brood & equal honey. By having the distance the same from the original entrance, hopefully an equal number of bees will return into each split. The reason for not using the original hive is so that most of the bees don’t go into that one, leaving the other split short of bees.


#9

Hi Jeff

Unfortunately the video link does not work. Could you re-attach?

Thanks


#10

Hi Aaron, let’s see if it works this time.
cheers
PS, I fixed it up, I don’t know what happened. I copied the video from my video manager, for some reason that didn’t work. I’m pretty sure that worked for me in the past.


#11

Nice video! So will you check for a laying queen in 2 or 3 weeks?

Mike


#12

G’day Mike, yes that’s the plan.


#13

Did my first split with capped queen cells 2 weeks ago. Was about to swarm. Was planning on checking in one week or should I look now?

Mike


#14

Yes I would look in a weeks time. If the queen got successfully mated, you should see some eggs by then. Were you able to prevent the hive from swarming?


#15

Yes. I put her in a nuke with some foundation, honey, pollen and bees. She is still there and getting fat again but still isn’t laying. I also split the hive in 2 as they had filled 3 deeps. Hoping both will end up with mated Queens but if one does not I was planning on recombining the nuke.