Sunday, May 24, 2015

In the Beginning

This blog is for documenting my adventures in beekeeping with notes and photos.

I became interested in bees about a year ago when I attended a hive visit here in Luxembourg. Long story short, I am now involved in a local English-language beekeeping group and have my own bees. My darling husband and oldest daughter are also fond of bees (my youngest daughter is horrified), and are now my partners in this project.

I am using the Deutsche Normal (DN) system, which means my brood boxes and honey supers are the same size. They have ten frames in them. DN frames come with support wires because they are intended to be used with foundation. I would like to move away from prepared foundation, although these frames will likely require something at the top.

I acquired a hive (and by this I mean a FULL HIVE) of Carnica bees at the beginning of May 2015. I was not expecting to jump in with so many bees -- I thought I was going to begin with a few frames, and nurse them along for the season. This has been a blessing and a curse, as I have already had to split the hive once, and I think we are going to have to do it again.

Some photos:

The bees arrived on 1 May 2015 in this green and brown hive. It is plastic or styrofoam, which makes it light and easy to move. There is an advantage to that.

I have an arrangement with a local business park to keep my bees on their property. It is a rather ideal location as the bees won't bother anyone, but the setting is east-facing, appropriately sheltered, with a water source, and completely left alone. I'll add some photos next time if I remember.

A few days later (4 May 2015), we transferred the frames into my hive (I'll call it Hive 1). I have a wooden hive which I painted with linseed oil. As you can see in the photo, there were three boxes to start: two boxes of brood (on the bottom) and one honey super (divided with a queen separator).

The following week (11 May 2015), we finally found and tagged the queen, who I refer to as Charlotte after the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. We knew she was there based on the activity of the bees (bringing in pollen, etc), but until then we just hadn't spotted her. It's difficult to pick out an untagged queen in a very full hive.

At the same time, we pulled out three frames of brood and put them with two empty frames in a small box. We took these bees over to a friend's hive location, the idea being that they would all go back into the big hive if we kept them at my site. If all goes well, this group will create and raise a queen, and result in a small second hive. For clarity, I'll refer to this as the Cents Hive for now.

Yesterday (23 May 2015), we went back to visit Hive 1. The honey super was largely full of frames that look like the one in the photo below:

We checked all the frames (found and destroyed unoccupied queen cells), added another honey super above (eight frames of full foundation and two frames of partial, just to see how that might work out), and went home.

But some things were bothering us. In Box 1 (the first or bottom brood box), there was little brood: it seemed to be largely pollen and nectar. Box 2 seemed full with honey in the outer frames and brood in all the others. Oddly, there were very few drone cells.

At home we mulled it over, watched a beekeeping video on swarm management (Demaree method), and thought some more. We were suspicious that the queen didn't have anywhere to lay eggs, and that if we didn't do something else, she would lead a swarm.

So we went back and opened the hive again. This time we moved six frames. Bear with me, as this is sort of complicated to follow.

Starting the Box 2 (brood), we took frames 1 and 10 (all honey) and moved those into Box 4 (the new honey super).

We took two frames of just new foundation from Box 4 and put them in Box 1.

We took two frames from Box 1 and moved them into Box 2. These frames were largely drawn comb, but with little else happening on them other than pollen. We thought this might give the queen more places to lay eggs, but we don't think this solution will last long. We are thinking, weather permitting, that we will go back tomorrow (Monday), and perform some sort of a hive split. We are still debating exactly what we want to do:

Do we want to create a total of three hives (Hive 1 and two small hives)?

Or a total of two hives (Hive 1 and a second hive that combines bees from Hive 1 and the Cents Hive)?

That is the question.


  1. This is fascinating! I can't wait to learn along with you.

  2. This is a great look into a world (apiculture rather than agriculture, right?) that I know nothing about. Would you consider writing a few posts as a kind of extended glossary on the technical terms: brood box, honey super, and why a water source? I'm sure I could look them up on wikipedia, but your writing style is much better...