Beeyard Cleanup

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner

After a year without honeybees, we have two new hives. Our previous bees did not survive the 2012/2013 winter. There has been a tree or two that needed to be cut down near the beeyard and you’d think that we would have gotten that done in the past year. It was the upcoming arrival of our new bees that motivated us to cut that tree and remove the lower branches of other nearby trees. It was a nice thing to do on a warm dry Saturday when it was still too early and wet to work in the garden. We took care of any other chores in the area that we had neglected when we previously had to watch out for bees.

During our cleanup of the beeyard I pulled an old metal wagon out to near the hives. It will serve as a bench to place hive bodies on when I’m switching them around, rather than putting them on the ground. The hive bodies can be heavy at times—all the more reason to keep myself in shape. Some beekeepers have gone to using medium boxes instead of deeps, but I don’t believe there is enough room in the shallower boxes to maintain a cluster.

However, I am getting older and those boxes do get heavy. When time allows, I would like to build a top bar hive. Managing a top bar hive will bring new learning experiences, with the advantage that you only lift one comb at a time. The combs the bees build hang from one wooden bar at the top, with no wooden frames surrounding them. Given the opportunity, honeybees will lengthen the comb in a medium frame to fill out a deep box. You can see an example of that at Homeplace Earth. We keep bees for our pleasure. They pollinate things in the garden and give us honey—usually. I won’t know the efficiency of extracting honey from top bar combs until I actually do it. Since we don’t sell honey, the efficiency of honey extraction is not as much of a concern.

Meanwhile, I have all the equipment for the Langstroth style hives, so that is what is housing my two new bee colonies. I started them each in a deep hive body. Soon it will be time to add the second hive body to each colony. After they fill out that box, I’ll put a shallow super on each hive to capture the extra honey. Since I had all the equipment in the beeyard left from the hives that we used to have, during the cleanup I prepared the boxes I will soon need and left them there with a hive cover on top. It is good to anticipate your needs and have enough equipment for an extra hive. You never know when you have the opportunity to capture a swarm. I wish you well with your bees this year.

Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to