Preparing for Splits and Supers

Spring is upon us.  Flowers are blooming, drones are flying, it is time to put supers on the hives and/or split some of the hives to create homes for the newest queens.  What follows are photographs of what I am doing to prepare boxes that will be used for splits and supers.

(If you are looking for the post about why we are leaving the Bellingham Farmers Market as of June 30, it is here.)

My work area is the hayloft of my barn.  It can be awkward, because of hauling stuff up and down the stairs.  However I have a lot of room to work in because I only have 8 goats these days.

Bee Box Work area Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls Washington

The Work Area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As boxes come in from the bee yards. They get stacked around my desk.  These boxes are usually the the bottom boxes of my hives, which are empty by spring.

Bee Boxes to be cleaned

A few of the boxes to be cleaned

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stack the boxes on a tarp that I have laid on the “deck” – this process gets very messy.

Bee Boxes Stacked for scraping

Waiting for Cleaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The frames are removed and quickly examined.  Any frame older than 5 years is discarded.  This is because pathogens can build up on the older foundation.  Is this painful to do? You bet.  But I had some experience with American Foul Brood, and discarding old frames is way less painful.

OldFrames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just toss them off the deck. Then pick them up at the end of the day – the tossing part’s fun.

Then I look at the remaining frames: Any frame over 3 years, is put in the “for honey” area.  Frames that have been drawn 2 years back get put in the “for brood” area.  Thus 2012 and 2013 can work brood this year along with 2014 drawn comb.  2010 and 2011 are in the “for honey” area.  Usually the bees concur.

But regardless of which area the frames are headed for, the frames and boxes need to be scraped.

Boxes get the frame rests, top edges, bottom edges, and inside walls done.  Usually, it’s the frame rest areas that are the most heavily coated with propolis.  If left on, the frames become very difficult to move.

Frame Area Before:

Lip of bee box with propolis

Propolis on the Edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And After:

Brookfield FArm bee box - edge clean

Clean Edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The frames get a lot of build-up as well.

Where they rest together:

Propolis Thick on a Bee hive foundation frame

Frame Thick with Propolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After:

Clean foundation frame

Frame cleaned of propolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the tips of the frames can get “extended”.

Propolis extends edge of bee hive foundation frame

They build it everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once everything is scraped (and this goes quite quickly once you get a rhythm going), the frames are organized into the cleaned boxes.

I use 6 frames of new undrawn foundation, 2 frames of “brood foundation” – the most recent years, and 2 frames of “honey foundation” – the older years in each box.

The line up from left to right:

New / Older / New / Younger / New / New / Younger / New / Older / New

Frame Placement in Bee Box

Organizing the Frames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new foundations in positions 1 and 10 will be swapped with the Older in positions 2 and 8 when the new foundations at 3 and 7 are drawn out — hope that makes sense.

If the box becomes a super, the new foundations at positions 5 and 6 will be replaced with brood frames from the box to be supered (bringing the brood up), and the new frames will go to positions 2 and 9 in the lower box.

The arrows on the tops of the frames (see photo above) mark the direction of the foundation – as per the Housel Position Method . This has worked well in my hives.

The year that the undrawn foundation was placed in the hive is written on the edge of the frame.  If the bees do not draw it out that year, then the next year date is entered.  I could do this when I pull them out, but I’m usually hurried, so I find it easier to just to correct the date as I put the boxes together

Dates on frames to record year drawn

The year foundation’s drawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the box is all ready to be hauled down to the truck and taken to the bee yards.

Frames in Bee box

Ready To Load

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This and supering and making queens and splits has taken up a lot of my time.  However I always make time to walk my pack goats (and the retired goats).  We’ve had a new addition to the group: Jerry Lee Lewis (his mom’s Good-Golly-Miss-Molly).  He’s a handsome 5-week old kid, who is already doing the daily walks with the group.

5 week old cashmere goat, Brookfield Farm, WA

Jerry Lee – Future Pack Goat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls Washington.  How go your beeyards?

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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