It’s finally starting to warm up here in Northeast Indiana! That means that it's time to make more bees. As a commercial bee farm, we started back in early March getting the queen to lay more eggs. We keep two boxes on the hives in the winter for the bees to have enough honey to eat, but in March we add a third so the queen has lots of room to lay eggs. We add pollen to the hives, which the bees use to feed their young. We also add a sugar patty to ensure they have enough to eat during the harsh months of March and April when weather starts to warm but there isn't nearly enough nectar to sustain the bees.
In April we began to split the hives and create nucs, which are basically smaller boxes of bees. We do this to create more hives to expand our farm, we also sell nucs to keep the farm going, and we want to prevent swarming. Swarming occurs when a new queen is created to replace the old queen. The old queen then leaves the hive with thousands of bees and finds a new home for themselves. Swarming is bees' natural means of reproducing. However, we don't want any of our bees to fly away, and there is a real chance that a swarm won't survive in the wild.
Each of our nucs has 5 frames. There is one empty frame, one frame of honey, one frame of pollen, one frame of brood (capped baby bees), and one frame of honeycomb and bees. We feed the nucs sugar syrup, and the empty frame allows the bees to draw honeycomb where the queen can lay eggs. If they get too much sugar water and pollen, the bees will fill the honeycomb causing what's referred to as a "honey bound nuc." They put so much sugar water in the honeycomb there's no place left for the queen to lay. Adding an empty frame keeps that from happening. They need tons of feed because the bees are busy feeding all those new bees! (By the way, we NEVER feed sugar syrup to the bees once we add the honey supers that we use to collect honey. Our honey has no sugar - or anything else - added! 100% pure Hoosier wildflower only at Bee Great).
We bought queens from Mississippi this year. Their warmer weather allows them to produce mated queens much sooner than we can here in Indiana. The queens are shipped in a small box, (yes, through UPS) that contains small plastic cages that hold one queen with 2 to 3 attendant bees to take care of her. The cage is capped at the end with a sugary candy. We then place each queen cage in a nuc. The process of the bees accepting the queen takes about 3-5 days. The bees surround the queens’ cage and eat the candy to free the queen. Often colonies will not accept a new queen. If the queen isn’t accepted, the bees surround her and produce enough heat to kill her. If they do accept her, the queen gets to work laying eggs and raising a new colony!
Lucky for us, most of the queens were accepted and are creating stronger nucs to sell! If you’re interested in having Bee Great keep bees on your property, take a look at our beekeeping services. If you’re already a beekeeper and you need nucs, we have some ready!