On Saturday, I paid a visit to a friend's bee hives. Keith Mabe started beekeeping this year with his own two colonies. After taking the basic beekeeper course that was offered through the Rockingham County Beekeeper's Association, he bought his hive set ups and his bee packages and got started right away. Here you see Keith as he stands next to one of his hives. This one is booming by the way.
Keith was a little concerned because one of his two hives seemed to be running a little slow. He told me that he didn't see a lot of eggs and spotty capped brood, and thought something may be wrong. So he asked me if I would come out and take a look and give him my opinion. Always glad to see another beekeeper's hives, I accepted and met him on Saturday morning. The hive he was concerned about is on the left.
Based on what he told me, I though he may have a failing queen. But once we got into the hive, I found a lot of eggs in a tight pattern. And we also found the queen as she made her way across the frame with all the eggs. There was also larvae present that was hidden under bees on the frames. I told Keith that it appears that all is okay with this hive, and that some colonies are faster in building up than others. My advice was to close the hive up and not disturb them for a week, and to continue to feed them sugar syrup so they can finish drawing the frames. Even without smoke, the colony was gentle and easy to work with.
The hive on the right is doing great! Keith told me that this colony took off as soon as he hived them, and that's apparent by the numbers of bees and the eggs and honey all throughout the hive. They had so much honey there that I advised Keith to put a shallow super on top and let them fill it with honey, then he could have some for himself and leave some for the bees. This colony was a tad testy at times, but they had a lot of honey to protect and we didn't smoke them either. Overall I say that this is a very prolific colony that should do well through the rest of the year and hopefully overwinter well.
Keith has a great location for his bees. They are near several area gardens and he provides water for them near the hives. They are in a rural area of the county, not far from the county seat, and the area isn't accessible unless you drive through a parked gate. So they should be protected from vandals or theft.
My only advice was to keep an eye on them to make sure that he sees eggs and brood, and that we would check them again in a few weeks. I also advised him to switch to a non-toxic weed killer to spray around and under his hives, and to not use something like Round-Up which the bees can get into take back to the hives. I use a gallon of vinegar to one full container of table salt. Once I mix it in a sprayer, I use it liberally around and under my hives. While you have to apply it more often, it doesn't carry the risks of poisonous chemicals. You can also use rock salt under your hives to kill weeds and grass.
I think Keith is going to make an excellent beekeeper. He's very excited about his bee colonies and doing all he can to help them. Plus he wants to learn all he can from more experienced beekeepers. And as we all know, that's what it takes to survive the ups and downs of helping the bees.