Apiary Program

June 2010

By the first week of June we started to get quite a bit of flowers bloming in the area behind the school.  We knew the girls had found the blossoms, as their consumption of sugar water dropped very quickly.  So the little red wagon made fewer trips out to the hives as the queens started really turning on the hive.  At this point they were  laying a 1,000 egges a day by working pretty much 24 hours a day.  One cannot appreciate the term 'busy as a bee' until you start observing the hives as they start expanding.  Another nice thing about this time of the year, the bees are occupied with getting things done, and they are not aggressive in protecting the hive.  No, that doesn't mean you can be dumb, but not having to dress out is kind of nice.  I did learn one thing though, to make sure and wear gloves anytime I went out to the hives, it is just a good precaution.

It was during June that we started receiving our supplies for the summer.  Supplies such as glass jars, lables and a good size honey separator.  Our initial separation of honey from the frames was a disaster.  We thought that the sun here in New Mexico would be strong enough to let the honey drain from the supers.  Wrong!  One does not know how viscus honey really is as it refuses to leave the honey comb.  It does require a separator, and we did get a nice one with centrifical force that does the job.  Remember though, the equipment is must be watched carefully, students (especially boys) feel the need to show their manhood by trying to get the darn thing to take off.  Not good, as you will have to replace sections in the separator.  We also found that a honey frame would last 2 maybe 3 trips to the separator.  The more often it can be used, the less time the bees need to wax and draw out the comb.  It costs the hive 4 to 5 times as much to draw out wax than make honey.  Put it another way, for every pound of wax you save in the frame, the bees can make up to 5 pound of honey.  

We also watched our good hive, it was a year old and had done well, and we didn't want them to swarm, good thing we checked it as they had laid new queens just for that purpose, so we added another super giving them more room to let the queen lay eggs and of course, we killed the soon to be queens, so they would not leave.  There has to be a better way and we are going to find that better way.  I don't want to kill any more of her young queens, as she has been a productive queen and her hive is mellow, and her hive produced most of the honey this summer - all the traits that we want to keep.

July -August
This is the time of the year that we wait for, the time when it is warm, and checking on the girls allows us to see them grow in numbers and start smelling the honey that they are creating.  They eat little of the sugar water, so when the flowers really get started, is the time to stop spending money on sugar.  Amazingly, the girls know what to do and really get into doing their job.  There is so little time and so many flowers that have to be visited!  

Checking, the hive once every few days will allow you to gage how the bees are doing.  It is especially enjoyable to go out about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, as this is the time the older house bees come out and fly.  Since this is their first time out of the hive, they need to get the lay of the land and see the wonders of the outside world and the only way they do this is by flying out a few feet and come back.   Then they go a little further, not unlike young birds that practice their first flying lessons.  After a lifetime in the dark, no doubt this 4 or 5 weeks becoming field bees is a relief.  As mentioned earlier, at this stage, it is not uncommon for a 1,000 additional bees a day take to the air as the hive needs to start storing honey and pollen in quantities for the future.

As it starts getting warmer, don't be surprised to hear the hives start to humm.  The girls inside want to make sure that the internal hive tempture doesn't get too hot and they will start fanning the hive to cool it down.  Just like human women, bees get a little short tempered when they are hot, so be warned don't fool around with them.  Do what you need to do and leave them alone.  What do I mean?  If you are robbing the hive of honey, lay everything out that you will need, rehearse your actions, and do it quickly and efficently.  The less time you have the hive open the better for all concerned.  This has probably been the hardest thing for Lil'Bill, I guess it is the biologist in him coming out.

 Robbing the hive
By checking the hive every week you will soon learn which hives are doing well and how much honey they are creating.  The super frames are filling up and once a frame is filled they will cap the frame.  Interesting, item, you want to make sure that there are enough honey supers.  How do you know that you need to pull more frames?  If you see them extending out the honey comb from the first capping.  Then you know you need to rob them or there is a danger that they will swarm.  Also check and see if there are any young queen brood cells, they will look like peanuts hanging.  If so, then they will need to be destroyed.

Here in New Mexico, this is when we start slowing down on robbing the hives.  The weather starts cooling off and we don't pull as many frames.  That's just us as we want to make sure that they go into the winter season with a full (10) set of frames to live off.  The last thing we want to do is have a hive starve.  Trust me, that's the last thing you want to see.

As the weather started to cool down, we wrapped all the hives with insellation. (The pueblo here is elevation of 6800 feet and known as a Alpine Desert so we get cold during the winter time.)  This area of the country is known for its Zuni and Navajo sheep and we bought wool in Gallup so that we could put in the top of the hive.  Buying pillow cases (all cotton) allowed us to inselate the top of the hive as well.  This has the additional positive in that it is natural absorbing water which helps keep the bees dry and warm.  Anything to help the weather the New Mexico winter at this altitude.

The last thing we did was to apply powder to help prevent anything that they may catch during the winter when we would not be able to help them out.  Now settle down for a long winter's nap!

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