June of 2017, we put in some beehives in our backyard to help pollinate our large vegetable garden. Since then, our backyard has become what looks like an apiary and our dad a beekeeper.
This hive is getting really tall with honey supers. The bottom boxes are called brood boxes, these belong to the bees. Brood boxes are used to raise new bees and to store honey. The bees keep about 50 lbs pounds of honey in each brood box for the winter. The honey supers on the top are added in spring and removed in fall, this is what we keep.
Catching a spring swarm before the bees fly away to make a new hive. That big ball is more than 10,000 bees hanging onto each other. Swarms are a group of bees that leave a parent hive to create a new hive somewhere else. Approximately half the bees stay in the parent hive, creating two hives from one, this is how bees reproduce. The swarm will sit in the tree for a short period of time as they look for a new home.
We cut the branch, shook the bees into the box and closed the lid. Then we held the branch up until the remaining bees in the air landed on it and place the branch in front of the hive.
We knew the queen was in the box because all the remaining bees started marching inside instead of flying away. There were also some bees fanning their wings letting the others know where their new home was.
This small hive, used to raise queens, has too many bees and its very hot outside. Some bees will stay outside to stop the hive from overheating, this is called bearding. Some bees will fan their wings outside the entrance to move the air faster.
All wrapped up for the winter, bees will stay alive all winter and each hive can eat up to 100 lbs of honey during winter to stay warm. Insulation is put under the roof and on the sides of the hive to help them stay warm. The vented roofs help remove moisture so it doesn't build up in the hive. An interesting fact, bees do not go to the bathroom in their hives, they can hold it for 3 months in the winter and wait for the first warm day to go on a cleansing flight.
Early spring 2019 we put out our indoor orange plant to help the bees find a bowl of sugar water (no flowers yet). The straw helps the bees get down to the syrup without falling in and possibly drowning. After a long winter they are running low on honey and sugar syrup is the best thing to feed them until the trees start to flower.