Monday, February 20, 2012

What should I focus on this season?

The beekeeping "season" is generally divided by the winter. If you start a beehive from a package, you do so in April. If you had bees going into the winter, then March is when you start working them again. You may also have die-offs during the winter, so you start again in the spring.

I realized that I am entering my fourth season of beekeeping; and I've been keeping my blog ever since I started. Time flies!

Now that I have 3 years under my belt, I pretty much have everything I need, equipment-wise, to be a beekeeper; I have enough frames and boxes, I have a couple of nucs, and I will be fine if I just want to tend the hives.

But I feel like I want to do something more / different. In years past that may have been building boxes or frames to get me ready for the basics.

Here is a list of items (in no particular order) of things I could do this season:
  • Start a Top Bar Hive (TBH). A TBH is a different type of hive, and managing it is a little different. It has some advantages to a traditional (Langstroth) hive in that it is usually cheaper to build. But it takes some extra care to manipulate. I've been reading up on the hives and they are interesting to me.
  • Raise some queens specifically. Last June I made a queen cup frame, and purchased the materials needed to graft queen cells. But I don't have enough mating nucs to do more than a couple of queens. I made a queen castle last year, but it turns out my lack of attention to the dimensions made it a pain to deal with. I may need to build a Cloake Board for this as well.
  • Build a better Queen Castle and some mating nucs (see previous point).
  • Build a top feeder. I could buy one, but why? :-)I found a neat set of plans for this.
  • Make candy boards for next winter (easier to deal with than sugar candy patties)
Anyone have any other suggestions? I'd like to hear them - comment here or on my Steven's Bees Facebook page.

Last Saturday I went over to the Sutton hives. I hadn't been there since Jan. 1 when I put some sugar candy on the hive. I looked for a blog post about that, but couldn't find one. I'm pretty sure I put bee candy on them, but maybe I forgot...

Anyway, the hives looked good. Here are the tops of the two hives:

The first picture definitely looks better than the second - there are a lot more bees there! Also I saw no evidence of any sugar candy, so maybe I did forget. In any case, I added candy at this time:

Also a week ago or so I gave a peek in my backyard hives. They hadn't consumed all of the sugar patties, but I added some more just as insurance. The pink hive's cluster was looking a little small, but I am not giving up hope.

All in all, I am hopeful for all 5 hives making it through the winter. Next month, mid-March, I am planning on starting the liquid feeding to get them stimulated to start laying.


  1. I think the TBH sounds like it could be fun. You could also try building an observation hive, that would be neat to watch.

  2. Hi Steven,
    You should try the candy boards, they are really easy. The board is simple to make and it's refillable for next year. But the best part is the recipe. It requires no cooking and lasts the bees all season long. Thanks for the link to my post!

  3. You've accomplished so much more than I have. I lost 2 hives to wax moths. It's nice that you prefer to build your own rather than buy..cant beleive all the skills you have.

    1. Carol - sorry you lost 2 hives. Last winter I lost 3 of my 5 hives. This year winter has been must more gentle.

      I really don't have too much woodworking skills - I couldn't make a box joint to save my life! But I make do, and do simple things. That's why beekeeping is fun - you can do things at whatever level of ability you have.

      Good luck!

  4. Steven --

    We raised a few queens last year and plan a couple splits and grafting again this year. We've also parlayed our beekeeeping interest into bee-friendly gardening - our sunflower seeds (pollinated by our bees!) won the Blue Ribbon at the PA Farm Show this year. Try showing honey, candles, and soap making. Enjoy.

  5. This year I would like to try splitting a hive. What do you think of the Warre hives?

    1. I've read a little about them. I like the fact they are like a top bar hive.


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