All three Rose Hill Farm bee hives are active, gradually filling out brood boxes and some storing honey in supers though each hive is progressing at its own pace.
Our blue hive (Humble) and yellow hive (Hope) have been very active since the colonies were installed on May 12. Humble Hive was so prosperous that they found their environment conducive to raising new queens, dividing the hive population in half, and swarming1. While this is good for the overall bee population, the new colony is now on its own and will have to weather the seasons without our assistance. Had we detected the presence of queen cells on routine inspections of the hive the swarm could have been moved into a new hive prior to taking flight (see Swarm photo). The down side is Humble, now with half the number of bees as prior to the swarm, will be less productive and will most likely not produce enough honey for the farm to harvest.
Hope Hive’s productivity has been comparable, but its bees did not swarm. Hope Hive has filled out both its deep super brood chambers and a medium honey super. We have placed a second medium honey super on this hive and any additional honey produced and stored in the second super can be safely harvested. A full honey medium super weighs ~100lbs. There are 10 ounces of honey per pound. We expect to harvest at least 1000 ounces of honey to sell at the farm stand this fall.
Our green hive, Harmony, has lagged Hope and Humble from the start. We recently examined the hive to try to determine whether there was a reversible cause for their slow progress. We found the hive had produced new queen cells (see Queen Cells photo) and the brood frames had few eggs or larva, suggesting an unproductive or missing queen. Through consultation with Joe at Hudson Valley Bee Supply, we moved a frame of brood from our strong hive, Hope, and placed it in Harmony’s brood chamber (see Moving a Brood Frame photo). This will increase the number of bees in Harmony Hive to assist in hive maintenance while the new queens develop and hatch. It takes 16 days for an egg to develop into a queen and then 3 to 4 weeks before the queen is productively laying eggs. The bees in the Hope Hive brood frame will join the Harmony Hive colony; all working together to strengthen the hive. Love those bees! Each bee is focused on their assigned task for the benefit of all!
(1) Swarm – The colony raises new queens and the present queen leaves the hive with half the hive population to start a new hive. There are different theories on why colonies swarm. The most popular theory seems to be that they run out of space in their hive. Like most things in life, my guess is that the drive to propagate is multifactorial: social interactions between the queen and the worker bees, the productivity of the queen, and an abundant availability of resources.