If you have been following the farm you know we seem to lose 50% of the bees we purchase to cold weather or swarming.Swarming occurs when the bees either lose their queen or the queen decides she doesn’t like her hive. They all follow her on a hunt for a better home. The swarming also seems to be related to the crazy weather. The weather here in unkind. The temperature commonly can start at 80 degrees in the morning and drop all the way down to freezing in the same day. Then there is the wind that seems to range between 10 and 30 mph routinely. Bees really need almost no wind and prefer 53 degrees before they leave the hive to collect their pollen and water. In reality they end up stuck in the hive many days.
Last year we purchased 4 hives and ended up with 2 surviving, continuing our 1/2 hive success rate. We also found that the bees were building comb in strange places and every time we needed to get in to help the bees with food, etc, we were having to break and remove comb. If you were the bees you would probably be frustrated too! We are getting 2 new packages of bees this year and want to try something new to hopefully keep them happy.
Rather than setting up the standard 2 hive boxes each with 8 pre waxed frames, we custom built only 7 longer foundationless frames that extend all the way down through both of the 2 hive boxes. The bees now have a larger space with fewer frames that are completely blank so they can choose to build their comb any way they want. The idea is to give them something that is more natural and let them build their home the way they want. We won’t be able to get into their hive as much but building custom windows on the outside of the hive will allow us to peak in and determine if the bees are still healthy. Since we extract the honey with a Flow Hive rather than tearing out their comb there should be no reason for us to need to enter the hive anyway. If you are not familiar with the Flow Hive look it up on our earlier posts or do a search online.
Ironically when the bees arrived for pick up we once again had 3 days of rain/snow mix we had to deal with. While we were worried they may die from exposure they really didn’t want to leave the hive once we got them in. They started to work on comb building immediately. This in itself is an improvement from previous starts. We are crossing our fingers.
See the new custom hives: