Has it all just become too much?

Too Much?

As you know kiwimana sells beekeeping supplies, well that is going well but not going so well is our looking after our ever expanding number of bee colonies.

We started with around twelve hives, with queen cells and swarms collections. This has expanded now to over thirty colonies thus season.

With filling orders, doing hive inspections for customers. The work of looking after our girls has taken a backseat and this has resulted in the following issues:-

  • Some hives haven’t been inspected for longer than two weeks
  • Our mite counts haven’t happened, this is a key part of our IPM program. You need to check the mite loads in your hives.
  • Some hives due to lack of equipment has had empty boxes placed on them, this has resulted in some amazing cases of crazy comb. We have removed this but with loss of some stores for the bees.
  • Some of our captured swarms and other colonies, have expanded beyond the size of their accommodation and re-swarmed.
  • Grass has grown in front of our remote colonies to the point where it’s stopping the flow of bees, I suspect this is slowing down there work.

So we need to rethink how we are going to managed our bee colonies, and we think the answer is too reduce the number to what we can successfully manage. We have decided to reduce our colonies down to fifteen hives.

Crazy Comb

In the height of summer you should really be checking your hives on a fortnightly basis, so we should be inspecting fifteen hives every week. This just isn’t happening with the demands of running a business, Gary’s full job and trying to still see our friends and family.

This has caused undue stress on all parties at kiwimana, and we hope to fix this soon. I feel gutted that the bees have had to deal with cramped conditions during this time. The bottom line is that we need to make new boxes and frames to let the bees concentrate on being bees.

Weaker colonies will need to me merged with larger ones to get them ready for winter. Some of our splits failed and resulted in drone laying queens, we had to merge these with swarms from other colonies to get them a working queen.

Anyway in closing we have learnt :-

  • Only keep the number of hives you can inspect on a regular basis
  • make sure each hive has at least four full sized boxes of frames and three 3/4 boxes for honey. The first two full and out in the field and the second two are for the splits in spring.
  • Never add a empty boxes to a colony, without adding frames into it.

The work begins:-

We went up to the apiary at the organic farm, and we found the following:-

Merging Hives with Newspaper
Merging Hives with Newspaper

We have started this work, we found two hives that had queen cells a few months back, these didn’t take. So we have used the Newspaper method to merge these queen less hives with Queen right hives that needed more space (and the extra bees can’t hurt).

One of the other hives also had no queen, so we added a frame of new egg’s to this hive. Hopefully the bees will make use of these new eggs and create a new queen.

The hive we took the frame of eggs from wasn’t overflowing with bees, so I suspect this has swarmed in the last month or so 🙁

The work continues…how are you guys getting on with your inspections…the time to think about treatments is fast approaching for New Zealand.

Hives After Days Work
Hives After Days Work

5 thoughts on “Has it all just become too much?

  1. Avatar photo
    Glenn Willard says:

    We are having similar problems. In 3 years we went from 2 hives to a high of 14. We had 22 swarms in the past 2 seasons. I have sold off most of the swarms as well as combing with weaker hives. I am reducing the number of hives because I feel it is taking time from other responsibilities. We are helping other beekeepers get started. I plan to move to just two long-box hives. A variation of top-bar, but uses standard frames.
    Good luck with your bees.

    • Avatar photo
      Gary Fawcett says:

      Thanks Glenn for the comment

      Yes I agree the way forward is to reduce the amount of hives, to a number we can manage.

      Perhaps next season we don’t collect bee swarms and just work on our own colonies.


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