Preparing Bee Yards

It’s been a busy time, so I’m a wee bit late in writing this post.  But I’ll be doing the same actions in a few weeks, so it’s all “current”.

Three hives in a rural Washington beeyard

Set Up And Flying

In June I started 20 new hives.  All of the bees, except the queens, came from splits off of strong hives in my bee yards.  Ten of the queens were raised and bred at my farm – where the ladies have access to drones with mixed heritage:  Russian, New World Carniolan, and Feral (the University of Arkansas a nice breakdown of honey bee types).  The other ten queens came from Strachan Apiaries in California.  This apiary suppliesNew World Carniolans that have some Caucasian genetics, thanks to the work of Sue Cobey, who bred the first New World Carniolan bees.Before these queens could be placed, their hives had to be prepared:

Bee yard areas expanded
New bee yards prepared
Put everything in except the splits
Then the splits brought in, and everything set.

I like to have the splits be queenless for three days before queen introduction.  I figure it gives the girls time to realize they don’t have a queen, and then be ready to accept the queen when she’s introduced.

Start Small

ear waiting for three beehives

Set And Waiting

My new bee yards only get two or three hives.  This way I can figure if everyone is happy.  The landowner gets to see me come and go when I tend the hives. The bees get to see if they can find ample forage in the location.  I get to see if there are any problems.  I’ve encountered pesticide issues and water issues (I get clarification now if a farmer says “oh it can get a little wet in that field” – beekeeping in a seasonal lake is not fun).

Two or three hives are easy to move.  Ten or more would be a pain.
Once a year passes and all parties are happy, I add more hives.

Step One: Expand Bee Yards or Prep New Ones

Although my bee yards are all within 45 minutes of my farm, the landscape can be very different: from mountains to flat agricultural lands.

a Brookfield Farm Bee Yard in Maple Falls, Washington

Mountain Beeyard

Agricultural area of one of Brookfield Farm's bee yards, Washington

Agricultural bee yard area

But no matter where they are, there is always tall grass.

Tall grass and flowers near a Brookfield Farm Bee yard (WA)

Grasses & Flowers Grow Tall Here

So my first chore is to cut the the grass. My area is fairly lush at this time of year.  Things grow fast in these long days, and ample rain.  I love my new power scythe.  I have a hand scythe and always carry lawn clippers for quick fixes, but life is so much easier with power.

Step Two :  Put everything in except the splits

I keep my hives on concrete blocks.  I don’t need a forklift to move concrete blocks.
My hives are placed with two hives side by side.
Each pair needs three concrete blocks.
Then, the bottom screens sit on these blocks.

Each hive is left:

A “collar”.  This is a 2-inch high “box” that sits on top of my hives.  This is where they have a top entrance, and where I can put feeders, if needed, and insulation in the winter.

A piece of burlap.

Burlap, which will cover top bars, being cut for a bee hive

Cutting the Burlap

This covers the top bars.  It seems to stop down comb building in the collar.  The bees most often cover this in propolis.  Sometimes they remove it.

 
Two entrance reducers.

Beehive Bee hive entrance reducer screens

Entrance Reducer Screens

These are 1/8th inch hardware cloth folded in half and shoved on each side of the entrance.  The resulting opening is about an inch or two.  The wire allows for ventilation, plus the bees can still land at the entrance and walk over to the opening.

I would leave mouse guards, but I’ve not had time to build all that I need this year.  That will happen before fall.

Bringing In The Splits

Three days before I plan to introduce the queens, I make overnight splits and move them into place.

Bee hives being placed in a Brookfield Farm Bee yard

Bringing In the Bees

Then I wait, somewhat relaxed knowing everything the new queens and I need are in place.   On day three I introduce the queens.  I’ll go on about that in another blog.

That’s the news for the moment from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, Washington.  I’m spending my time now making more frames, wiring them, and hanging wax.  We seem to be having a very good honey year here (about time), and the girls are filling their boxes quite quickly.  Hopefully this will continue until the fall.  How are things going in your area this year?  The weather is so changeable these days.

About Bean

I am the beekeeper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, near Maple Falls, Washington. My bees fly from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives in the foothills of Mt. Baker (the second most glaciated volcano in Washington). I sell the raw honey my bees make, as well as honey produced by Washington beekeepers who are friends - the emphasis is on raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives. I also make and sell Raw Honey Infusions (Ginger, Lavender, and Vanilla Bean; Raw Honey Infused Organic Vinegars; and Beeswas Salves. You can find me or my husband at Seattle's Fremont Market and at Bellingham's Farmers Market. When not with the bees, you'll most likely meet me up some mountain trail, pinhole camera and digital camera slung over my shoulders, and my pack goats trailing behind me.
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