April 2nd, 2017. Sunny, slightly breezy, and 58°.
This colony has been so active since I last checked it on March 14th, and so many more bees have been foraging at the bird bath, that I thought I had better see if they need more room.
In the photo just below, you can see what the top feeder looked like on March 14th. This photo is from the hive check that day. You can see that there is quite a bit of honey left in the half-frame of foundationless honey comb I had put in the top feeder for them. There is also quite a bit of sugar.
In the photo below, you can see that they have virtually emptied the honey comb in the top feeder and the sugar is all but gone as well.
On March 14th, I had reversed the boxes, moving the bottom of the two boxes into the top position. At that time, the bottom box had some pollen stores in it but no brood. Today, that box was full of brood. This photo below is looking at the top of the top box with the plastic tray from the top feeder removed.
And here’s just one frame of brood:
Because this top box was so full of brood, I decided to add a third box. I added a Bee Tree Hives box:
This box is built on the footprint of an 8-frame box, but has two permanent follower boards of rough-sawn wood, thus creating a 7-frame space. This addresses three of the differences between how honey bees live in the wild and what they’ve been subjected to with conventional beekeeping practices. The first is that honey bees tend to live in a much smaller cavity in the wild. The second is that they tend to live in a cavity with much thicker walls. The third is that, in the wild, honey bees choose cavities that tend to be rough inside. That promotes the production of propolis that they use to smooth the surfaces. Propolis, of course, is a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial. So, in the wild, honey bees create a much healthier “envelope” to live in than they do in smooth, man-made boxes that do not promote a coating of propolis.
Another component of Bee Tree Hives is that each box has two 5/8″ diameter entrances. As many as 5 bees can enter at once, a single bee can fly straight in, the entrances are easy to defend, are mouse-proof, keep skunks from bothering the colony, provide a consistent and uniform flow of ventilation, can’t get clogged with snow or blocked by weeds, and the openings are small enough that the bees can propolise any openings they don’t want to have open.
Again, in the wild, honey bees typically have a single, small, top entrance to their hive; not a large bottom entrance like conventional beekeeping provides.
Below is a top view with the Bee Tree Hive body sitting on top of the hive. You can see the permanent, rough, follower boards and the seven frames. There are three frames of drawn comb checker-boarded with four foundationless frames. The bees immediately came up into the box.
I then added another half-frame of honey comb to the top feeder:
And here’s a photo of the new hive configuration. I’m going to leave the DOW scoreboard insulation, that’s been on all winter, on the hive until night-time temperatures stay up in the 40s. Once this hive has been converted to all Bee Tree Hives components, the exterior insulation will not be necessary. The hive will function much more like a hollow tree with many of the same characteristics.
The bees were “business-as-usual” and very docile the whole time.