Hands in a hive training yards

I’ve been a bit of a slacker in keeping up with my ramblings. Not that summer beekeeping isn’t filled with lots to do. It is, as you know.

I’ve been balancing my hive work load with a training yard set up to help provide hands on experience to new beekeepers. Basically there are 4 hives involved. Two hives were started from packages and the other two from swarms. The idea being that the packages started in new hives on foundation would be what a new beekeeper is typically working with. It might be the easiest way to get bees into a hive but could be the hardest way to get a hive going.

Why do I say that? We put 3 pounds of bees and a caged queen into a new hive on new frames with blank foundation. So in about three days the queen is released and three days worth of comb has been drawn. Not a lot of comb to lay in but let’s just say a small amount of comb is ready for eggs. In this case the first bee emerges 24 or 25 days later (3 days for the queen to get out of the cage plus 21 days for the egg to become an emerged bee). This year the packages arrived on April 22nd. So if the time line is correct, it will be late May before the first new bee joins her sisters. The good news is that by late May the nectar flow is well under way and that brood production has continued to ramp up. With experience, packages work. New beekeepers don’t have the experience so they need a bit of help. Hence the train yard idea.

Some good luck gave us two swarms that I setup on drawn comb in the training yard. New beekeepers typically don’t have drawn comb. These swarms were caught two or more weeks after the package based hives were started. For those of us that have had the pleasure of finding good sized swarms it would be no surprise that the swarms soon caught up the package based hives and now one would have a hard time seeing much difference in hive strength.  I have opted to keep one swarm in 5 frame equipment and will over winter this hive.  An additional teaching opportunity.

The goal of all this is to expose new beekeepers to as many combinations and issues as one can with 4 hives. So far we have seen a dead queen with one of the two packages and a failing queen with the other package. In both cases the queen issue was a great learning experience. The swarms are doing well so far with strong, productive queens.

Next will be mite testing and control. We have trapped small hive beetle, discussed brood stages comparing patterns between the hives. We have kept notes on each hive and rotated the person doing the inspection. We have a good time and made new friend.

Spring 2018 nuc production training is in the planning stages.

Beekeeping at its best!