Just a brief few words on the state of beekeeping at Circle of the Sun. The hive has multiplied, though not of its own volition.
The most common way beekeepers get extra colonies is to wait till the hive swarms, then capture the swarm and house it. Because our bees aren't in a well-traveled path, I wasn't sure I'd know they swarmed before they moved on and found a permanent home. I decided to make a split, using the information I found on a great blog offering beekeeping advice, Basic Beekeeping.
The long and short of it is, you take a thriving colony and remove a few frames of eggs and brood in different stages, leaving at least a few of the same in the donor colony. You also take a few frames of honey and pollen, and the bees on the frames, and put all of these in a new box. If the brood frames you took had eggs in them, the new colony can raise its own queen.
I'm pretty impatient, and don't have a lot of experience with beekeeping, so I was ready to make a split in late April, about the time Steve's colonies were fixin' to swarm last spring. But that was an exceptionally mild and early spring, and this spring was cold and late, so the bees were not in a position to swarm. So I waited, and waited. But not really long enough. I ended up doing the split around May 15, moving two frames of brood and two frames of food into the new colony. The donor colony was left with about the same. It was not booming in any sense of the word, and I began second-guessing myself almost immediately. I was ready a day later to recombine them, but our friend Carol Cox (who is beginning to know something about beekeeping) encouraged me to see the experiment through. She pointed out that, really, the worst that could happen is that I don't get any honey this year and the split dies in the coming winter. One year of large, but not devastating, loss for a great experiment and first-hand knowledge. So I'm watching them now.
I opened both hives up a few days ago to check out the progress. I had assumed that the queen was left in the donor colony, having been pretty sure that I spotted an emergency supercedure cell (a sign that the colony is grooming a queen) in the split a week after making it. But it is clear that the split is growing too fast, and has brood so recent that it can only be explained by the presence of a queen, while the donor colony also appears now to have some supercedure cells.
Time will tell how this all plays out, and you can count on a fall update to fill you in.
Meanwhile, I got my first glimpse of wax moth damage. Not in my own hives, thank goodness, but at work. I was pulling up a couple of short lengths of floorboards in an apartment we're working in, and found this: