Sunday, October 4, 2009

Combining Hives

I wanted to post a few photos here of our Two Block Diet beehive. I am a member of a wonderful neighborhood group that has pooled resources to make urban agriculture happen in our backyards, front yards, and sometimes on the street itself. We had one hive which split into two when it swarmed in the spring. The hives never became strong enough on their own two survive the winter so we had to combine them. Beekeeping has been very rewarding, but equally as stressful. I really worry about our bees. (Too much empathy, I know!) I recommend that you spend at least one full season with a mentor before you try beekeeping at home. I am also wondering about the amount of sustainable bee forage in Vancouver. Have we maxed it out already? Will this stress out the native bees? I have so many questions. We needed to put a piece of paper between the two hive, so Jean chose one with a photo of the Dalai Lama for good karma! We slash the paper with an exacto knife and place it on the hive before putting the top back on. One of our mentors told us never to have two beehives open at the same time. Once the bees chew through the paper they will be used to the smell of the other bees and will accept them as part of the same hive.

Look at this lovely bright yellow comb! Now we consolidated the hive so that there were not too many empty frames to help the bees stay warm when we close them up for the winter, which will be soon. We left this frame out for the bees to rob because it didn't fit in the consolidated hive.

We tried in vain to find the queen in the weaker hive so we could "humanely" kill her. Jean thinks she may have already died since we could not find uncapped brood. In any case, we had to combine the hives and let the bees duke it out.

We put the weaker hive on top of the strong hive and put in plenty of sugar water to help them deal with the stress.

In the right of this photo you can see the spray bottle full of sugar water Jean used to calm the bees instead of smoking them. Cleaning the sugar water from their bodies keeps them occupied, and it is a much less invasive tactic than smoking them. We also dusted them a bit with powdered sugar in case they had any residual varroa mites. I was a bit concerned about the amount of bee excrement I was seeing in the yard on the lawn furniture. This could be a sign of Nosema, but I think it was just because of the cooler weather and the stress we were putting them under. I really hope they survive the winter. They are very productive today so as long as we have another couple weeks of good weather I think the kids will be all right.

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