Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hive Cooling Strategies

Seattle is currently in the middle of a rather massive heat wave.
In an effort to keep the hives cool, Karin placed wet towels over the hives.Here is our Mud Honey Hive (above) and our humble little swarm hive (below).
One note about the swarm hive: When we first captured this swarm, we only had one deep deep and one shallow super. We were concerned that they would soon swarm again if only given the deep hive, due to the sheer mass of bees that left our original Blue Moon Hive. So we put on the additional shallow and then later purchased the second deep hive (note the unpainted wood of the new deep box). The deeps were filled with plastic frames; the shallow boxes contained pure wax frames.
Clearly our bees are wax snobs. The workers pulled out the wax comb, all the while turning up their noses at the platicicell foundations. Naturally, our queen laid her eggs in the cells that were fully drawn out; those of the wax foundations. This wouldn't be a problem except that the drawn foundations belong to the shallow supers, the place were honey, not brood, is supposed to be deposited. Our check today revealed that the bees have begun to slowly draw out the plasticell foundations of the deeps but continue to use the wax foundations as well nesting. Bad bees!
So we're conducting a bit of an experiment. We placed a queen excluder between the two honey supers, prohibiting the queen from using the new wax foundations for nefarious breeding purposes. On second though, we probably should have placed the excluded one box down, but didn't have the time to comb through the bottom super, looking for our queen and booting her down to the lower deeps. We'll keep you updated.


  1. Anonymous4:51 PM

    I noticed you have three honey supers on your MudHoney hive - do all three of them contain at least some capped honey by now?

    I still only have one medium honey super per hive, but each of them is quickly filling up, probably only 3-4 frames to go in either one. I need to assemble the rest of my frames and put on the second super for sure - and soon!

    But I wonder how much more the bees will still produce considering it's almost August, and whether I should get a 3rd super for each hive, since it's been so crazy hot and the bees seem to love that.

  2. Hi Daniel,

    Good questions. You're using westerns (mediums), right? So yours are naturally bigger than mine so it's not surprising that you've only got one on. I think maybe we got our bees a few weeks earlier than you too. On our Mud Honey Hive, the first two supers are very full and the third is in the process of being drawn out so it's still pretty empty. That said, we've been putting our supers on a bit early because we're worried about swarming (as you know, this already happened to us) and we'd like to have plenty of ventilation in the hive.

    As for the August question, your guess is as good as mine. It is almost August but sometimes our Seattle summers seem to extend fairly far into September, wouldn't you agree? As for the warm weather, ours are loving it too but I worry that some of the nectar/pollen sources are going to dry up as plants get parched from a lack of water. Perhaps you might hold off until you put your second one on and see the rate at which they're filling up that one? Although, I, too, hate waiting until the last minute to put together frames. I've done that a lot this summer, though. I'm running out of frames as well and if they continue at this rate, I might ponder harvesting some of the honey from the full frames and then putting the empty ones back on. Not sure if you're supposed to do this but I have a fuzzy memory of reading about someone doing that. Good luck.

  3. Anonymous1:15 PM

    I wasn't looking close enough and didn't recognize you were using shallow supers - that makes sense. I am using mediums. And you're right, I think you guys started several weeks before me, so naturally yours would be a bit further along.

    I notice a lot of "bearding" on the outside of the hives in the evenings of a hot hot day, so I do worry a bit about ventilation as well. I think the holes I drilled into the front of the supers are helping, you can actually feel hot air escaping from them.

    In one of the PSBA newsletters it mentioned under "things to do this month" (or something like that) that if it's very a productive year, you can do your first harvest in June, and then put the extracted frames back on for the bees to re-fill them. So I think it's considered an acceptable practice.

    I know the first year starting with new colonies, you usually don't get as much honey as in subsequent years, I am just rather anxious to harvest and bottle at least *some*, so I have something to show for all this work ;-)

  4. I was thinking about what you said about bearding when I read this blog post: http://beehavenacres.blogspot.com/2009/07/interesting-phenomenon.html
    Ours are doing it, but to a limited extent. We have screened bottom boards on (and have removed the wooden insert) and the hives are perched about six inches off the ground, giving them good bottom air flow. I've also heard of beeks cracking open their hive tops, allowing for complete circulation but also a second entrance for busy workers. We're not doing that though, at this point.

  5. You're right about the amount of work required...gosh, I sure hope we get something this year!!!