A Hive From Janet
P. Michael Henderson
My friend, Janet, is a commercial beekeeper but she's starting to retire. A swarm from one of her hives moved into an empty hive she had in her back yard. It was three brood boxes, but only had frames in the bottom box. She asked me if I wanted the hive and, of course, I said "Yes". Actually, I only have room for one more hive so this will fill me up.
Janet thought the bees had only been in the hive for about two months so I expected that they would have some comb with brood and honey but not a lot.
July 23, 2023 I went to Janet's place about 8am. It's hot during the middle of the day, and those bee suits are especially hot, so we decided to do the work in the early morning. Sorry for the lack of pictures - I had my phone inside my bee suit and my hands soon got full of honey, anyway.
We took the top off the hive and it was FULL. The bees had made comb in the two top (empty) boxes and it was full of honey with brood in the lower section. But it was a great hive. There were lots of bees and they were very docile. So, we have large, productive, docile hive here - couldn't ask for more. I'll point out that these are hybrid bees, which can deal with varroa, so no chemical treatments required.
And just a minor note, the bees had made their comb diagonally across the brood box, and had attached it to the top and sides.
We started removing the comb. We placed the honey part in a large plastic container and I took the brood comb and mounted it in frames. I couldn't mount all of it, but I mounted four or five frames with it.
Then, we put the frames with the brood in the bottom box and filled it with frames with plastic foundation. We put a second brood box with frames, with plastic foundation, on top.
The question we had was, "Did the Queen survive?" Some of the bees died, drowned in honey, and maybe crushed between comb, but we couldn't tell if the queen was one of the dead. All we could do was get them set up in a managed hive (one with frames) and keep our fingers crossed. It was impossible to find the queen in that mess.
Later in the week, Janet processed the honey comb to save the honey.
August 9, 2023 I went to Janet's place this morning and we opened the hive. Lots of bees, and even a small amount of comb built on the plastic frames in the upper brood box. We went into the bottom brood box and removed one of the frames that I had put brood comb into. And there was fresh brood and tiny larva in the cells. We have a queen! I couldn't see any eggs but that's probably more a comment on my eyes than anything else.
If there was no queen, the brood that was in the brood comb would have emerged by now and there wouldn't be any new brood or larva.
And the bees could not have made a new queen in that time, and had time for her to make a mating flight and then get back to the hive and start laying. No, the old queen definitely survived. I'm happy for that because the same genetics will continue for the next couple of years.
Our plan now is for me to come very early one morning, or late in the day, when the foragers are in the hive, and block up the entrance. Then we'll strap the hive and put it in my SUV for the ride to my bee yard, where I'll remove the entrance block.
August 13, 2023 I went to Janet's place during the day, and we put a strap around the hive. Then in the evening at dusk we loaded the hive in my SUV and I brought it to my place. It was not too heavy - a bottom board, two brood boxes with mostly empty frames, and a top - and I was able to put it on a stand in my bee yard. Picture tomorrow.
August 14, 2023 Here's the hive in my bee yard. I put a super on it, with frames that I extracted a day or so ago (so they were "wet" with left over honey). That seems to have caused a lot of bees to be on the hive. I just hope it's not a robbing situation. But there were a lot of bees in this hive so they can defend themselves. I didn't think that wet frames inside the hive would be attractive to other bees.
[Update: The bees all settled down - it was not a robbing situation.]