It was quite steamy and humid today, and my bees were letting me know it...
This behaviour is called bearding, and I've talked about it before on my blog. Now, I like beards on men, but on hives? Not so much. It means it's too hot in there and the girls can't work like they want to. Yesterday I put bee escapes under honey supers ( supers are smaller boxes full of frames to be filled with honey) on two hives. I'm planning on extracting honey in a couple of days, and my favourite method of getting the bees out of the supers is to use these boards. They are like a little bee maze. The girls go down through the hole and out through a triangle maze into the super underneath. But they can't go up again because of the convoluted nature of the escape!
I usually wait three days for most of the bees to clear out. Of course, emptying supers with a bee escape means that the hives suddenly had less room for bees. Add that to today's heat wave and you've got...
... bee bearding!
In the photo above, you should be able to figure out the two hives I put escapes on. Lots of bees hanging out front! I decided that I'd better add empty honey supers to them to reduce congestion, so I went out this afternoon, sweat my butt off, and put empty honey supers on the two hives in question (the leftmost hive, and third from the left.) The empty honey supers went under the bee escapes, of course, because I want the bees to have access to them.
I was trying to hold off adding new honey supers to these two hives, because I'm almost out of supers and frames! My bees are just going nuts this year. I'm going to the bee supply place (three-hour round trip!) on Saturday for more supplies (and lunching with my friend Deb from Just Cats!) Today I decided to deal with the most immediate bee needs. My four new hives need second honey supers very soon, but they can wait a little longer. The main nectar flow has just started and I don't want my huge, healthy hives to run out of space for honey!
I have NEVER, since I started beekeeping in 2009, had more than four honey supers on a hive at one time, and even that is a lot for me. But as you can see, the hive on the left now has two deep brood boxes and FIVE honey supers on top of those. Right now I've got 17 honey supers on my hives! And more to come.
A couple of hours after I added the empty supers, the bearding had pretty much stopped, so I'm glad I did it.
I've been having all sorts of fun putting together frames for the hives, because Gordon taught me how to use his nail gun. I am IN LOVE with the nail gun! I can't believe I've been hammering in dinky nails for the last few years when I could have been using the NAIL GUN. And I'm almost as in love with the ratchet driver I was let loose with last week. Power tools are awesome! But you'll never catch me using the table saw...
I am developing some biceps this summer from all the manual labour I've been doing around the farm: hauling buckets of water, shovelling loads of poultry poop, working on the beehives. Yesterday I had to take off and put back on several full honey supers, which can weigh up to 40 lbs each. I can lift more than 40 pounds, but lifting it carefully to the level of my head and gently placing it on a beehive is tough. If you just slam the thing down, the bees get pretty ticked off! It's becoming quite the workout to add supers to the really tall hive, because I bottom super, meaning I put the new, empty honey super under all the full ones. The girls are more likely to use it this way. But it means removing and replacing all those boxes when it's time to add on!
I've noticed that all this physical labour is a lot easier since I started running. So I guess I'd better keep it up! My lower back problems have also pretty much disappeared, which I attribute to the running, yoga, and the extra abdominal exercises I've been doing after my runs. I'm glad I can lift those boxes without injuring myself.
It looks like it's going to be a great honey year. Fingers crossed. Last night, I listened to a beekeeper on CBC radio's As It Happens. He lives in western Ontario and has lost TENS OF MILLIONS of honey bees to neonicotinoid poisoning this year. The pesticide really needs to be banned. You can listen to him here. Yesterday I found a few poisoned bees in front of my hives. Fortunately for me, not hundreds or thousands or millions. I hope that never happens to my bees. It would devastate any beekeeper.
PS: Happy Fourth of July to my American friends!