Sunday, May 17, 2020

Down the Bee Boardwalk to Orientation

Even though we've been beekeeping for four years now, I realize that I'll have to sort of usher people unfamiliar with our operation into what they're looking at. I guess you could call it orientation.

We planned to just start with one hive, but after talking to our beekeeping mentors it became clear that a minimum of two was the consensus. With two hives you gain the valuable ability to compare and contrast. You can see if one hive is obviously stronger or weaker, more or less productive, more or less chill or combative-- there's a wide variety of great analysis at your fingertips when you have a sample size greater than one.

Perhaps even more importantly, you can share resources between the hives. If one hive is weaker than the other, you can redistribute the next generation of bees to balance things out. If one queen is poorer than the other, then you can re-queen from your better hive. You get the idea.

So that's why we have 5 hives.


Well, it was intended that way, but if two is good then five is awesome! No really, it was quite accidental.

The first two hives are cleverly named for where they sit relative to one another, West Hive and East Hive. Then we had the opportunity to try our a new genetic family of bees that were out of Purdue University, so we decided that was worth exploring and trying to help the greater good. That became our third hive, which we call (inventively) the Purdue Hive.

At a beekeeping conference we won a white Styrofoam-construction nuc (which is sort of a like a half-hive and not one you harvest honey from, think of them as backup colonies or extra resource farms where you move things in and out of the main full-size hives for various reasons). That nuc joined another nuc we had just purchased to become our two backup resources.

Our chosen location for the bees is maybe not the best for making honey, but it's really great for making bees. The two nucs give us a valuable tool for trying to mitigate and contain swarming. This past year was the first one we over-wintered the white nuc, mainly because the queen was awesome, but previous to that we have consolidated everyone into a main hive for winter.

We're in the midst of swarm season right now, so the green nuc has been repopulated to try and lower the population crunch in the main hives to reduce their desire to spread out by swarming. We weren't quite fast enough though and we think the white nuc already swarmed... but that's a discussion for another time.

Anyway, so that's the short story of where we are and what each colony is called.

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