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The Bee Hive: Splitting the hives, boosting honey production

Brett Kent

Welcome to the second installment of the Bee Hive. In this weeks column, I am going to focus on what going on in the bee hives right now. I was inspecting some hives today, and I found that the bees are busy drawing out the wax comb, and filling it with honey.

The queen bee is busy laying 1500 to 2000 eggs a day. This will build up the bee population to its maximum capacity so when the honey flow is on, they will be ready to take advantage of it.

The bee's sole purpose for gathering the nectar is to build up honey stores for the long winter ahead. The average hive in this area needs approximately 90 pounds of honey to make it through the winter. The bees do not hibernate in the winter months.

They are very active within the hive. The bees gather in a cluster to stay warm and the cluster moves throughout the hive consuming honey along the way. The temperature in the center of the cluster stays approximately 70 degrees, even when the temperature outside is 30 below.

So as a beekeeper, one must only harvest the surplus honey and leave the bees enough honey stores for their struggle through the winter months.

About three weeks ago, I split all my hives, meaning that I made two or three hives out of one. I did this because the bees had wintered well and the hives were bulging with bees.

To do this, I found the queen in each hive, and split the hives with an equal number of bees between the new hive and the mother hive. I then left the new hive "queenless" for 24 hours.

Then I introduced a new queen, which was in a small little queen cage. The reaction of the bees in the hive is incredible. The bees can smell the queen pheromones and begin to crawl over the queen cage.

Then all the bees begin to fan their wings. I'm not sure why they do this, but I'm thinking they are moving her smell throughout the hive. This is a very important time for the hive, because a hive without a queen will die.

The bees' next job is to get the new queen out of the cage. To do this, they eat through a candy plug, which is part of the queen cage. By the time the worker bees have eaten through the candy plug, hopefully they have accepted her as their new queen.

This past week, I checked all the splits and found the queens are all out and are now doing their jobs.

Thanks for your interest, and send us your question, to ssmith@parkrapidsenter