Over the weekend, I decided to check the hives we have the back of our property. I also planned to put escape boards on; there is honey to be harvested.
It had been a while since I had last opened the hives for inspection. I had last been to the hives a few weeks prior to fix one of the supports under the pallet that two hives reside upon. Moles had borrowed under the chunk of concrete supporting the back, right corner. The tallest of the hives was resting against the chainlink fencing that surrounds the hive area.
It has been a fickle year for bees for us. We mixed things up a bit this spring and got bees from a couple different suppliers. One in Wisconsin with bees via Georgia. The other, from northeastern Iowa where they were raised.
I say fickle because we lost, almost immediately, two packages of bees that we picked up in Wisconsin. We had had plans to hive them in southern Minnesota, and had put the packages of bees into nuc boxes. By the next morning, all the bees in each nuc were dead. We subsequently had two hives swarm.
The Iowan bees faired well enough. There is one quirk with them, though — two of the four hives (two in St. Paul, and two in Racine, MN) failed to move up into the honey boxes. In the above picture, there are bees in the two bottom deep boxes, but there is very little activity in the top box. No honey packing in the top box. The two deeps on that hive are full of bees and honey; it’s like they just did not want to move up one more layer.
The tall hive in the photo – on the right – is loaded with bees and honey. Three deep boxes for brood and three boxes of honey. This appears to be the only hive we will get honey from this season. Not much honey on the other hives. No honey in the boxes on the other hive; the fourth hive swarmed or collapsed. No trace of bees in that hive.
The one thing that I was very annoyed with was finding small hive beetles. I have never had them in our hives before. I suspect the Wisconsin bees carried the beetles. I have no evidence to prove this, but those bees were simply unimpressive.
I think next year, we will go back to our previous supplier of bees — even though they will be priced much higher than the Wisconsin bees, they have been much more reliable in previous years.