Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Honey Bee Rehiving

Adding a second hive has been challenging. We got them in a Langstroth hive and put them into a Warre hive. This means pulling the honeycomb, cutting it down to size, and rehanging it into the new hive. All with living bees and trying to keep the queen happy and staying in the new hive. There are several things that you are not supposed to do with bees - expose brood (baby bee larva), have an excessive amount of raw honey around the area and move the hive around. We had to do all three in this process.

It is yet to be seen if the bees are going to settle in and establish in their new hive, but we are eagerly watching them and, so far, are very hopeful that all will work out well.

This is what the process looked like.

Here you can see the old Langstroth hive (lighter, longer box) and the new Warre hive (square box with handles along the outside) that the bees will eventually end up in.

Pulling out the old Langstroth hive frames. 

The bees were given a hard plastic base to build on. This meant that the old plastic with the bee's comb built onto it needs to be cut down to the size to go into the new box.

In a Warre hive there are no foundations and the bees build the complete comb naturally.

These are the honey comb frames that most people think of when they think of keeping bees. Most bee keepers use the Langstroth hive type.

Brushing the bees into the new box before cutting the comb to fit.

First, the frame on one side is cut and then the comb is cut trying to keep as much brood (baby bees) and honey as possible.

Here you can see where the brood (white parts of the edge of the comb) was laid all the way out to the edge and we had to sacrifice some of them.

Here is the comb cut down. You can see the lighter spots along most of the bottom half. Those are capped brood. When the eggs are laid the bees feed them then cap them and allow them to grow. There are several stages of growth for the brood before they emerge as adult bees.

Here are the extra pieces that were cut from the outside edges.

We were really hoping for some good honey, but it is early in the season. We did a small science lesson with the kids. The comb gave us a glimpse of what goes on in the hive. There were several stages of brood, some capped, some not. There was also green honey (nectar that is not honey yet). You would think that it would taste light and sweet, but alas, it tastes much more like old dirty socks or a musty garage. The green honey is open while the bees work on it, when it is complete they cap it with wax. There was one small spot that had completed capped honey. We each got about a teaspoon full. Oh, so good!

Here is a good view of a comb. Queens lay in a target pattern. In the middle (the capped cells) are the capped brood, then the yellow cells are pollen (provides protein food for the bees and brood), then there is an empty ring before the outer area (lighter yellow wax comb) which is the start of the honey.

After the brood hatch the bees will move down on the comb and the queen will lay more brood and the bees will go back and fill in the now empty comb with honey. And, on it goes as they keep moving down with each successive laying. This is how it works in nature and in a Warre hive. The Langstroth hives work different because the bees have to move sideways to utilize their comb. There are benefits with each type of hive, but we really like the more natural style of the Warre hives.

Hopefully this process will all work out and we will have amazing honey come Fall.

Monday, June 3, 2013


It seems that Summer is finally starting to show itself. I have been amazed at how busy Spring can be on a farm, even a small farm like ours.

We have had a lot of transition this season. It has taken a while to figure out all the plants and animals that are going to work for us here.

Most of the plants are out of the greenhouse and into the raised beds. I am still keeping the tomatoes in for a bit longer and we just got kiwi plants! They are in the greenhouse until we get them into the ground. Who knew that kiwi plants could grow in Washington! We have two plants because, it seems, kiwis need a male and a female plant to produce fruit. You can get grafted plants, but we went traditional with the two separate plants. We are looking forward to this experiment and hoping for success. We ordered them on the internet. Yeah for Amazon having anything and everything we could ever imagine wanting!

We are seeing the beginnings of production from many of our plants. Our grapes have the start of fruit on them and our summer squash has a few inch long squashes starting. The corn, beans, and cucumbers are also growing well. I'm excited to see if we actually get some glass gem corn from our plants this year. Everything in our garden beds (except for the raspberries that we over wintered) were started from seed. Some we direct sewed (corn and beans) some were in the greenhouse. That is a big accomplishment for my black thumb and a good boost to my gardening confidence.

Our little herd of goats is finally complete (at least for now). We purchased a doe with really great lines and high milk capacity. Meet Kieya...

It took almost a week for her to settle in and quiet down, but she is settled now and all three goats are getting along great.

Pippa is working her way up the hierarchy starting with the chickens. It's quite funny to watch her try to headbutt the chickens when they come around.

My husband also added another bee hive. The bees have been a huge learning curve for us. We found the original hive last week with about 1/3 of the bees dead. They certainly were low on food, but there is also the possibility that there was a hornet attack. We aren't completely sure, but they are now stabilized and back on track. Mostly it means that we will not get as much honey from them this Fall.

With the almost collapse of the first hive we realized that two hives are better. Starting the second hive has offered several challenges and we are holding our breath and hoping that they establish in their new home.

The chickens are the same as always: fat, happy, and laying. We love our delicious eggs and are making many Spanish Tortillas. Yum!

Finally, we added another bunny. Barley has joined us because his original owner needed to find a good home for him as she is getting married soon and can't take the bunny with her when she moves. Peter is loving having a buddy and Barley is settling in well. He is also a Holland Lop like Peter.

Now you are updated. I'm pulling together a post about the bees and the rehiving process. It was crazy, cool, and a little scary at times.