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Friday, July 29, 2016

Why I Want Less Honey

Most beekeepers want more and more honey because when it comes to honey, less is definitely not more. More is more. Or is it??? Before sharing some thoughts, though, I'd like to offer two caveats:

  1. All beekeeping is local and depends greatly on your own particular bees, weather, forage, and flow. All of these things greatly impact how your bees behave, so you have consider these factors. For example, are your bees swarmy? What is the timing of your flows? Do you get two big booms in spring and fall? Or do you get a steady trickle year-long? Do you have mild springs? Or do you get a lot of spring rain that keeps bees inside? The list of considerations goes on.
  2. What works for me may not work for you because of differing perspectives, goals, preferences, etc. For example, do you want splits or honey? Is beekeeping a hobby or business? How often are you able to check your hives? Is your approach more "conventional" or "crunchy"?

So bearing those things in mind. I'll share what I think works for me, but take it with a grain of salt depending on your own situation.

This year, I've come to the conclusion that although there are many Lang management techniques that can be applied to TBHs, some strategies don't work well for me. It all comes down to hive design and how that works in my area.

Crikey, that's a tall hive! You can see how expandable a Lang is, though.
From http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

People who keep Langs often have honey as a primary goal, and that's what the expandability of Langs is designed for -- super production. Many management techniques for this hive contribute to that goal. For example:

  • Reusing comb after harvesting helps increase the amount of honey bees can make because they don't have to consume nectar to build comb.
  • The ability to add boxes allows beekeepers to increase the hive volume, thereby manipulating bees into storing more honey. 
  • Building up the colony size in early spring and during summer dearth allows beekeepers to have large numbers of workers of foraging age when the main flows in spring and fall begin.
  • Never allowing the hive to swarm keeps colony population maxed out, which in turn keeps the amount of bees available for work high.
The Lang's design and associated management practices yield enormous harvests.

44" long. That's all the space I get.
Some people super TBHs, but I'm just not into that.
It negates the entire reason I picked a horizontal hive.

On the other hand, while a TBH beekeeper can expect some to harvest some of the sweet stuff, a TBH is simply not designed for maximum honey production. The KTBH design that most people use was originally a cheap way to make hives for people with minimal woodworking skills & resources. When the Peace Corp introduced it to beekeepers in Kenya, they were dealing with African bees that have a tendency to abscond frequently and a climate with short, explosive flows (as opposed to the long spring flow that I get). Essentially, there's no way these African bees would ever fill a Lang, so expandability just wasn't needed. I don't want to imply that a TBH is not a viable hive design for beeks outside of Africa; I am just saying that it's important to understand the hive in order to best manage it for your own situation. Where collecting honey is concerned, the real limitation of the TBH is its size & lack of expandability.

In my locale, TBHs generally don't have enough volume to contain all of the potential honey from a good spring flow. In fact, my problem is that there is so much nectar in spring that the bees fill the entire hive with comb and nectar, but they don't have time to cure it, which means I can't harvest it and make room in the hive. That leads to backfilling of the nest and eventual swarming. If I incorporate practices meant to boost honey production -- like giving them empty comb to fill and feeding prior to flows -- all I do is speed up their mad race to swarming. This is great if you want more bees. It's not so great it you're out of space for hives and just want honey.

After a lot of thinking about how the flow works in my area & how bees respond to it, I've recently come to the realization that when working with established TBH colonies (as opposed to new packages or splits), things go better for me (i..e., I get less swarming) if I can slow the bees' ability to collect honey. Slowing them down includes:

  • Letting them build new comb instead of providing empty comb -- Since they can't cure the honey quickly enough for me to harvest, I can't make more room. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to give them empty combs in order to increase the amount of honey stored. I might as well be ruthless in pulling old comb and let them build mostly new comb every year. In addition to slowing down the spring collection,  new wax has the advantage of increased hive hygiene.
  • Not feeding except in emergency situations -- Again, why bother having a huge build-up prior to the start of spring? They can't hold all the honey, and the population will explode on its own once nectar starts rolling in. Building up on nectar is better for them anyway. Of course, I would feed in an emergency, and I'd still feed a new split or package until they got rolling. I'm just thinking about established colonies now.
  • Letting the colony take a break over the summer -- During a good year, my fall flow can be almost as productive as the spring. To avoid late season swarming, which is hard to recover from as I learned last year, I let the bees take a break from building up during the summer dearth. The break also gives them a chance to clean out the hive. It's also the time of year when varroa populations start to climb, so giving them fewer places to lay may help knock them down a bit. (That's a naive theory of mine anyway.)

This spring/summer, Elsa provided me with an ideal experience, and I've been processing what made her great compared with my other hives. Basically, I've hit on the idea that less honey collection (relatively speaking) and more building of both comb and brood in spring is a desirable thing. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have the hive completely built out by the end of the spring flow and full of honey without casting any swarms. At that time, I could take some honey for me and make some splits. Will I get less honey than if I were using Langs? Sure, but I would never be able to expect that much because my hive isn't expandable. In any case, if I've managed spring well (a big "if"), I can still expect 30-50 lbs of spring honey from a hive, which is more than enough for me. (That number doesn't include honey that would be left for the colony or used for splits or a fall harvest. It might also vary for you depending on bar size, number of bars, and local conditions.)

This was pretty much from one hive during the fall flow last year.
It was more than enough for me and to give away, so how much do I really need? 

Deliberately encouraging the bees to make less honey seems counterintuitive, but I think it works. Swarming decreases the colony population and reduces overall productivity for awhile. Slowing the bees down actually results in more honey due to reduced swarming.

What do you think? Is this idea complete rubbish? What have you noticed in your established hives?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Catching up on Inspection Notes

It's been a while since I updated my inspection notes, but lots of things have been happening, so I wanted to make sure I captured them. That way, when I read through my posts next year (cringing all the while at typos and awkward sentences), I can reflect on what happened.

Buttercup
I forgot to write the date down, but sometime around July 12, I noticed that Buttercup had gone queenless. Probably her queen got lost on a mating flight, so I donated some eggs/young brood from Elsa. Last week (July 20), she had queen cells, including a couple of capped ones. Hopefully, I'll see eggs around Aug 5.

Celestia
Checked Celestia last Friday, and she has eggs so I can breathe a sigh of relief on that front.

Austeja, Hippolyte, Persephone, Peach
Haven't checked these since the 12th, but they were all fine then. Since the dearth is on us & I'd like to avoid setting off an attack of robbing, I won't open the hives much until the fall flow begins. Maybe to take some honey...


Elsa
This is Elsa's second year, and she hasn't swarmed yet, so I split her on July 20. I couldn't find her queen, so I just moved some eggs and brood over to my empty Bubblegum nuc. 3 days later, the nuc had eggs, and Elsa had queen cells. Well, I guess I know where she is now. Fingers crossed, I'll have a laying queen by August 14 -- or maybe I should just buy a queen.

I also took a couple of bars of honey that were about 75% capped out of Elsa. I was concerned that they might be a little too wet still, but my refractometer showed a water content of 16%. So whether the bars are all capped or not, it looks like they are harvestable.

Before
After
(Actually, there was at least another jar,
but used a lot of honey making lemonade and popsicles)

Weather Update
Weather-wise, this has been a miserable spring & summer. According to the US Drought Monitor, we are in a severe drought and have been for some time. Daytime temps have been consistently in the mid- to upper-90's F since about May or June. Our normal average high for July is 85 F -- so we're 10 degrees above average.  Hearing lots of reports of wells running dry in my town.

I'm in Southern New England. You can see how dry that area is.

Additionally, everyone's lawn has died (except the weeds -- my clover and weeds look super green!) Personally, I have no use for grass, but I am mourning the toll on my garden. My DH's tomatoes are not setting as much fruit as they usually do. Hot spells (days consistently about 90ºF and nights consistently above 75ºF) cause tomatoes to focus on survival instead of reproduction. My cantaloupes, too, are producing male flowers only. Even my pumpkin & winter squash don't want to make fruit. Heat also fries the pollen -- not just tomato pollen, but pollen for lots of other plants as well. Flowering plants don't make as much nectar either without water.

The weather forecast shows a 50% chance of a couple rainy days this weekend, but I'm not feeling optimistic. Most of our rain predictions so far this year have either not panned out or we've gotten a quarter inch at most. Not nearly enough.

In the 16 years we've been married, my DH and I have moved 4 times -- each time further north and to somewhere with a higher cost of living. We have this joke that the next two moves will be to Canada and then the Arctic Circle. As this heat keeps up, Montreal is sounding pretty good to me!

In addition to the heat and lack of rain, garden pests have been the bane of my existence these past couple of months. My guess is that the unusually warm winter we had last year failed to kill them. Tomorrow, I'm planning to put down some milky spore and beneficial nematodes. Fingers crossed for some rain to help soak that stuff in. Anyone know a good rain dance?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When do I stop feeding my package?

The number one piece of advice new beekeepers get is: Feed, feed, feed your package. However, one rarely hears when to stop feeding. That's when new beeks get in trouble because in their zeal to do the right thing, they feed first-year packages until they swarm (speaking from experience here). Anyway, multiple people have contacted me this year about when to stop feeding your new colony, so the question seemed worth a post.



Before we get any further into this post, I have to make a couple of assumptions:

  • Assumption 1: You're not planning to make splits from your package. If you do plan to make splits from your package, you may be feeding it all season, so this post really doesn't apply.
  • Assumption 2: Your flows work like mine (a main flow in spring, a summer dearth, and another flow in autumn, then a cold winter when the bees are huddled up all season). If your flows are different, you'll probably want to talk to someone local.

OK, so let's say we're on the same page. Before you decide when to stop feeding your new colony (split, package) in the spring, I would find out a couple of details:
  1. What the recommended amount of honey to leave over winter is for your area
  2. How heavy a bar full of honey is in your hive. Since there is no standard for TBHs, that number may vary greatly based on your design
In my area, 60 lbs is the recommended amount for winter & my average bar weighs 4 to 4.5 lbs when full of honey, so by the end of the fall flow, my bees need 15 bars of stores (15 bars x 4 lbs each = 60 lbs). Note: The number of bars you need may be different based on location and bar size.

When the spring flow ends, any new packages should have at least 15- 20 bars built out. They don't have to be completely full of honey, but I want them to have enough nectar/syrup to make it through the summer dearth without starving. By the way, it's natural for bees to slow down brood rearing during a dearth, but I don't like to see it stop altogether because that means they're hungry. Also, I want those 15-20 combs in place so that when the fall flow arrives, the girls have a place to store nectar that they'll need to get through winter. Does that make sense?



My general rule of thumb for when to stop feeding packages is when I see bees storing syrup. I'm just not interested in raising bees with syrup if it can be avoided. I certainly don't want to pull bars of syrup out of my hive. I actually use food color to dye syrup blue or green so that I can tell if they're storing it or not. (The fall is different story. If they don't have enough honey in the fall, I feed them until they burst to get them through winter.)

With that said, let's consider a couple of scenarios. BTW, I'll be upfront and say that my way is not the right way. It's just what works for me. Differences in climate, flow, bees, etc. can have a huge impact on what you see in the hive.


Season: Middle of the spring flow (around mid-May for me)
Flow: Yes
Enough comb: Not quite
Storing syrup: No

Let's say it's the middle of spring and you installed your package at least 3 weeks ago. Bees are emerging, so your colony is on the upswing now. You've been feeding, and there is a flow happening. The bees have not yet built 15 combs (or whatever minimum number you need for winter), but they're not far behind. The combs may have some stores, but not a lot. However, this is the prime of spring, so bees are bringing in nectar.

I would reduce or stop feeding. My spring flow tends to be massive, and I've had packages swarm on me about a month after install. So if they're close to the goal of 15 combs and seem to be chugging along and bringing in loads of nectar & pollen, I'll ease up on feeding. If the colony is really thriving, I might even stop feeding altogether and let them build up on nectar.

However, this is where regional differences can play a big part in what you see. You may not have a massive spring flow. You may have lots of rain. In that case, you may want to play it by ear.


Season: Spring
Flow: Yes
Enough comb: Yes
Storing syrup: No

Let's say it's springtime and you've installed your package. You've been feeding, and there is a flow happening. The bees have built 15 combs (or whatever minimum number you need for winter). The combs are not full of stores, but the bees are bringing in nectar.

I would stop feeding. They have the minimum number of combs they need built, and the bees are still bringing in stores. Let them do the work. It's better for them to consume nectar than sugar. Also, if the flow stops unexpectedly for some reason, you still have enough time to resume feeding them up before winter.


Season: Spring
Flow: Yes
Enough comb: No
Storing syrup: Yes

It's springtime, and the bees are bringing in nectar. However, they have not yet built out the minimum number of bars. You notice that the bees are storing syrup & may even be backfilling the nest.

Because they don't have enough bars, I would want them to expand. Because they're storing syrup, I would worry about them getting honey-bound and swarming. In this situation, I would encourage them to build more comb by adding empty bars to the brood nest to open it up as well as empty bars between fully built honey bars. If they start storing syrup again once they build the bars, I'd stop feeding. Obviously, they have more than they need.


So those are three situations I could think of. If you have other situations when you'd recommend stopping feeding, I'd like to hear them.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ligularia

Once the clover is done (usually mid-July here), that's the end of my spring flow. Until the goldenrod and Japanese knotweed begin the fall flow, the bees are on the constant lookout for flowering plants.

My area many flowering plants (and even a few shrubs) in the summer -- echinacea, rudbeckia, hostas, daylilies, yarrow, rose of Sharon to name a few. They really love some of them (like the cone flowers), will visit some of them (hostas), and completely ignore others (yarrow). There are also all the summer blooming fruits/veggies that they adore -- beans, squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers to name a few. 

In any case, I'm always looking for new plants that will fill this gap in the nectar flow during the summer. One plant that my bees seem to love this year is ligularia.

Ligularia.
Usually the leaves are much nicer, but something has eaten up all my plants this year.

In my opinion, the leaves are the prettiest part of the plant, but ligularia starts to bloom around the middle of July, sending up "rockets" of yellow flowers -- actually, they're composite flowers. You wouldn't think it to look at them, but they're related to sunflowers. Although ligularia is far less showy than its cousin, the bees seem to find their blooms utterly irresistible.

Honeybee on ligularia

I really didn't know anything about this plant when I bought it, and by chance, I picked the perfect spot for it. It likes light shade and rich soil that never dries out. It doesn't need wet soil, though, just moist.

Yummsy!
I've heard snails and slugs can be a pest, but this year, everything has been eating all of my flowers. Hopefully, this winter will be a little colder than last to kill off pests.



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

So Long, Suckers!

For several weeks now, I've noticed wasps hanging out by Elsa's back end, but wasps love looking for ways into beehives, so I haven't paid much attention to them until now.

Today, I wanted to split Elsa since this is her 2nd season, and Dr. Delaney has intimated that the best time to split is just after the spring flow has ended. However, as soon as I opened the cover, a cloud of yellow jackets flew straight at my face. Ugh. They'd made a nest under the roof.

Yellow jackets peeking out

Because of the way the roof is constructed, there was no way to get at the nest from underneath. If there had been, perhaps the wasps never would have taken up residence there in the first place. I had to remove the top in order to access the menaces.

Somewhere between the size of a pomelo & a soccer ball

I used expanding foam to fill in the cracks. Not pretty, but it's functional.

Wasps wondering what the heck happened
Usually, I leave wasps alone. They eat a lot of garden pests, and as long as they're not stinging me or my children, we get along fine. Today, though, they were bumping and stinging me the entire time. If I look at the situation from their point of view, I can't blame them, but I still can't say that I felt any remorse for destroying them. If I'd had napalm or a flame thrower, I would have used it.




Monday, July 18, 2016

Dumpster Diving

A lot of people use pallets to build TBHs. It's a great way to recycle, and a real wallet saver if money is a primary consideration. I applaud those who do it. For me, though, as a mom of three who also freelances, I feel like the amount of time spent deconstructing them just isn't worth it. A few months ago, we had a speaker at my bee club, and he said something I believe in wholeheartedly. "Time does not equal money. I can make money. I can't make time." For less than $50, I can build a hive. The hours spent breaking down a pallet and trying to remove all the nails? That's priceless and much better spent on other tasks.

On the other hand, I do love a bargain, and I'm more than happy to score some wood if the price is right (or free). Sam Comfort loves to say, "Show me a dumpster, and I'll get a hive out of it." Well, today, I did some dumpster diving.

I needed some wood for more bars. While the local lumberyard has better wood, Lowes happens to be in the same plaza as my favorite local Caribbean bakery. Since this South Florida transplant can't resist a spicy Jamaican patty... (Hey, this mom has to multitask -- now I have wood & dinner, so the trip was a twofer.)

Anyway, 10' boards give me more bars with less waste. However, they're unwieldy and don't fit as well in my car, so I like taking advantage of the free cuts they make at Lowes. While standing by the saw, I noticed a dumpster that had some really nice boards in it. I asked the customer associate helping me what Lowes did with the wood. He told me some people want a cut of wood, but they don't want the cut-offs, which just get thrown away. What?!?!?!?! That nice wood? Some of those pieces were at least 3'-4' long!

So in addition to the board I purchased, I walked away with an assortment of wood, including several nice 2" thick boards and two furniture-grade pieces of plywood (thinking my guest room could use side tables). Best of all, I got them for free! My DH warned the salesperson that he'd gone and done it. Giving me wood is like feeding a stray -- now I'll be over there all the time. What can I say? Some girls like purses and shoes. I like lumber and power tools.

A tidy little haul

Saturday, July 16, 2016

When Bees Don't Read the Books

If you're an experienced beekeeper, bear with me for awhile. The whole start of this post is stuff you'll already know, but it has to be said. I'll get to the point presently.

Before I started keeping TBHs, I read the books and watched the videos. They all seemed to say one thing -- Add a single empty bar between the brood nest and honey storage area between 2 fully drawn combs. 

Sorry for the crude illustration, but you get the idea.
This is how you're supposed to add empty bars to a TBH.

The logic of this action is to create space for the bees to build what they need. Queens don't like to cross the honey barrier, so they generally don't look for empty comb beyond the honey barrier to lay eggs. Also, since worker bees like to fill up empty space in their nest with comb, that empty bar between the brood nest and honey bars encourages them to build. If they need more brood comb, they can build that. If they have a lot of nectar coming in, they can build honey comb. By adding only one bar between two fully built combs, the beekeeper encourages the bees to built straight comb on that empty bar.

(Note: Michael Bush seems to be the exception to this rule of adding bars between brood & honey. He writes: I try to get them to expand the brood nest as much as possible to keep them from swarming and to get a bigger force to gather the honey. So I add empty bars in the brood nest during prime swarm season."

Anyway, what goes mostly unstated, but is always implied, is that the brood nest will stay near the entrance, and the honey bars will stay near the back of the hive:

"The logical place to open the top-bar hive is at the entrance end. The added benefit with this particular strategy is that the beekeeper can quickly enter the brood nest... when I inspected eighty brood nests in a day, during the main nectar flow, I never had to lift their surplus honey. That stayed in the back of the hives." (Mangum, Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping: Wisdom & Pleasure Combined. Pg. 114-115.)

In Crowder's book, Top Bar Beekeeping, most of the diagrams show the brood nest at the entrance. The one exception is the diagram labeled "Reverse Brood Nest."

"In this illustration, the brood nest is located away from the entrance, making it necessary to harvest the honey at the front rather than the back. This is relatively unusual but does happen from time to time." (pg 54, bolding added by me)
So now to the point of this post...

My personal management style during the spring flow is somewhat of a cross between Bush's and Crowder's recommendations. In the spring, after the pollen has started coming in but before for the main flow starts, I add 2 empty bars. One goes between the pollen bar at the entrance and the brood nest. One goes behind the brood nest, just before the first honey bar. At that time of year, I like to keep the brood consolidated for warmth, but I feel like a couple empty bars gives them a place to build if they need to.

After the main flow has started and temps have warmed up so that the danger of chilling brood is over, I add empty bars in the following three places:

  • Directly to the brood nest (like Bush) to allow the bees to expand the nest, to inhibit swarming, and to reduce the frequency of my inspections (Depending on colony strength, I might add anywhere from 2-4 bars)
  • Between the brood nest and honey storage at the back of the hive (i.e., the end opposite the entrance)
  • Staggered between full bars of honey/nectar at the back of the hive
When I add multiple bars during the main spring flow, it sort of looks like this.
However, if there are multiple honey bars, I put an empty between all the drawn ones.

However, what I've discovered over the last few years is that my brood nest does not stay put. In other words, it does not stay near the entrance during the main flow. Rather, as brood emerges from comb closest to the entrance, that comb gets backfilled with nectar. The colony doesn't run out of room and swarm, though, because I'm constantly adding new bars. However, the brood nest does end up "traveling" closer and closer to the back of the hive. 

Usually, this is the configuration I get: Pollen near the entrance. Next come loads of honey bars followed by the brood nest and a few more honey bars. Most of the honey is near the entrance, though. Essentially, I end up with the reverse brood nest that Crowder mentions. However, this is not a "relatively unusual" occurrence. This happens year after year with every full-size hive that I have. (I should mention that it doesn't seem to happen as much with my nucs.) 

Image of reverse brood nest from Crowder's book
Reverse nest (top diagram)
How to rearrange a reverse nest (bottom diagram)

I've mentioned this issue a couple of times, and other beeks have assured me that the same thing happens to them all the time. So here's what I'm wondering -- Are my bees simply not reading the books? Or are beekeepers not reading the bees? In other words, as beekeepers, despite evidence to the contrary, do we simply repeat this info about the brood nest being at the front/honey in back because that's what we've always heard? I also wonder what would happen if I just left the bees to do their thing instead of reversing the nest before the autumn flow, though I'm not brave enough yet to try leaving them on their own. I worry they'd either swarm or get caught between the honey in winter.

Anyway, I'm curious to know what happens in your hives? Do your bees do things by the book or not?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Lawn Gets Cropped & Other Stuff

It's that time of year again. The spring flow, which was kind of pathetic this year, is over. Basswood (aka linden/lime/tilia) is done. Summer flowers have begun, but the boom is over. The real tell-tale sign that the dearth is on us, though, is that my bees don't seem very interested in building comb.





White clover, which was so plentiful in my lawn a few weeks ago, has been petering out, too, so my backyard, which hasn't seen a blade in months, finally got cut. I used to mow crop circles around all the flowers, but a couple of years ago, I gave up and started giving my lawn mullet -- short in front & party in the back!

Tidy lawn. A true sign that the spring flow is done.

BTW, this is sort of a rabbit trail, but I've been thinking that time savings is one of the fringe benefits of beekeeping. I estimate that my backyard alone takes about 30 minutes to cut with a riding lawnmower. So if I do the math correctly, 30 minutes once a week from about April to mid-July is 7 hours. (14 weeks x 30 mins/week). So just by letting the weeds grow, I saved 6.5 hours of yardwork! Not too shabby!

Haven't inspected in awhile, so I decided to get that done before our 90 degree temps started kicking in. One of the big things I wanted to do today was start prepping for the autumn flow. For me, that means a couple of things.
  1. Condensing the hive: In spring, the bees are building like mad & nectar is pouring in. So I like to have a lot of empties throughout the hive for them to build on. This time of year, I remove most of the empty bars. (I do like to keep one between the brood nest & honey storage area). I also like to move partially built-out honey combs toward the back. 
  2. Moving dark brood comb: If I see any really dark brood comb that has been filled with nectar, I move it to the honey area where it can be finished off by the bees and pulled in the autumn.
So here's a rundown of the hives.

Bubblegum
This is the first one I opened, and she was nearly empty and full of queen cells (open & capped). A virgin queen was running around, too. After some Yosemite Sam style ranting, I gave her a bar of capped brood from Elsa and closed her up. Poop.

Queen cell near bottom

Can you find the virgin queen?


Elsa
Because she's so full of honey, I wanted to do a full inspection for queen cells. But halfway through I came upon a bar that had fallen. It was still straight and stable, but it was connected to the floor and sides, and I just didn't want to deal with it at the moment. Besides, I'm hoping that if I give them another week, they'll cap the bar (and won't swarm, fingers crossed)  and I can just pull it out for me.

Peach
Also incredibly empty. At first, I thought she'd absconded or swarmed, but then I found the queen & some eggs. I noticed that there was a lot of dark comb in there, too. As I recall, when I hived a package in Persephone last year, I gave her a lot of old comb to get started, but she didn't do well. Wonder if that old comb was a contributing factor. Feral colonies will abscond once the comb gets too black.  I think I'd kept that dark comb (both in Persephone & Peach) because it was full of pollen. Next year, though, I probably won't bother trying to save bee bread. It seems the risks may outweigh the benefits, and bees seem to prefer fresh pollen anyway.

Anyway, pulled a couple of the worst combs that were mostly empty and replaced them with newer comb. Also donated capped brood from Austeja. Since the other hives have so much honey, I may pull a few more older combs from Peach next time and replace them with cleaner honey combs.

Celestia
The queen appears to have emerged right on cue, but she was nowhere to be seen. Hopefully, she's on a date.

Persephone's queen

Persephone
This hive that has loads of spring honey that crystallized. One of my fall prep tasks for her was moving the bars of crystallized honey to the front of the hive, just after the pollen bars. Hopefully, if the girls get hungry over the summer, they'll eat that first to make room for the brood nest. If not, they'll have it over winter.

Couple of weird honey things were happening in this hive, too.
  1. She used to have more crystallized honey. I don't know if it's melted in this heat/humidity, if the bees have eaten it, or if the bees have simply stored more liquid honey over it. Strange.
  2. They've started capping some honey even though the cells aren't full. 
Notice the white comb near the top?
See how the honey has been capped even though the cells are not full?

Hippolyte
This hive has mellowed out a lot. For the first time in over a year, I've been able to inspect her without gloves. She's got plenty of bees -- just lost the bad attitude.  That's right, girls (three snaps up)! Don't mess with the regicidal beekeeper.

Look, Ma! No hand protection!

I still don't have any harvestable honey, but quite a few bars are about 50% capped now. Hopefully, the bees won't eat the rest before fall! Meanwhile, after all that work in the blazing sun, I've earned some Samanco time!

My weekly guilty pleasure. After a hot afternoon in the sun, I like a frozen treat.
This is a Korean ice cream with red bean paste. Weird, but delicious.
Way better than American ice cream bars.