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Honeyrun Farm produces pure raw, honey, handcrafted soap, and beeswax candles in Williamsport, Ohio


More Questions - Beekeeping

Honeyrun Farm

-Posted by Isaac

Well, I had said my next post was going to be about the wax rendering process, but this, Jayne's genius idea of making some blog posts by answering questions, takes precedent. No, I'm serious... it really is genius.   It gives some future ideas for posts, plus it lets us have a little dialog with you guys. Please don't hesitate to ask more or comment. Though I'm not, I love feeling like an "expert."

So here are three questions we had concerning bees:
Stacey Shehin asks,

"Is it OK to leave 3 supers on top of the bottom two brood boxes over the winter (i.e., 5 supers total)? Is that too many to have on a hive over the winter?"
Hives should weigh over 60 lbs going into winter
It's perfectly fine to leave on as many supers as you want over the winter. That's just more food for the bees. Typically I take everything off, leaving just the two brood boxes if I feel that there is enough honey in there to support the bees through the cold months. If they're light in September (below 40 lbs), I'll feed sugar syrup and protein patties. If they're light in October, I'll leave supers on as you're doing. It's healthier to let the bees eat their own honey rather then syrup. Plenty of honey left on in the Fall, usually results in a strong colony in April and a super Spring honey crop in June.

Kim Benson had kind of a tough question:

"This is our first season with a bee hive. We looked at them 10 days ago and noticed several dead brood with a tiny hole in the cap. What could cause this? We saw a few mites and a few hive beetles, which we are taking care of. Any thoughts would be appreciated." 

It's hard to really make a definitive call on this without seeing the hive. If your population is good and over 90% of the brood looks healthy I'd say you're ok. Truthfully, my first thought was that you've got an American Foulbrood problem, but with this, you would have noticed a putrid smell. The tiny holes in dead, sunken brood cells are a symptom of this. Mites and hive beetles are in most all hives, and it's a numbers game with these guys as to your level of concern.
American foulbrood
Mites- The real scurge of beekeeping           
It's tough your first year because you haven't seen a whole lot of cases of this or that... you're still gaining experience (as am I!). At any rate, in December it's too late to do much or to worry much. Take a look on a warm day in February and see what you've got. Dead or alive, you've learned something... start from there. Hope springs eternal in beekeeping.

Ericka Hill asked an interesting question:

Have you discovered whether individual bees have personalities? That is, can you have a relationship with them or are they sort of....anonymous?
I laughed upon first reading this question, but the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. It's really a great question, Ericka, and there are many levels to it. In short, yes, I have noticed that individual bees have personalities. I notice it any time I've got one old prickly worker bee buzzing loud and hitting my veil for an extended time. You'll be working a hive and she's at it. Ten minutes later, two hives down the line, the same old girl is still at it, and everybody else is just going about their business quietly buzzing in and out. I'd say this really is a personality. And if I grow tired of the nuisance, our relationship is pretty short-lived.
A bee's "personality" varies with age and genetics. A young nurse bee, less then two weeks old is going to be very docile, almost sweet. As she ages and becomes an older forager, she grows wise to the ways of the world and becomes a bit meaner, more protective.
A "young'un"
Keep in mind that the personalities of all these bees stem from a single mother - the queen. If a certain hive has an angry old bitty for a queen, all the daughters are going to be somewhat angry and bittyish. Thus making this hive aggressive and not fun to work with. It's amazing how requeening can improve a hive's demeanor.
Mean or sweet, it's a joy to work in the hives. I'll keep your question in mind the next time I'm in the bees. I'll try to actually observe some other personality traits aside from the few individual bees heckling me.