The beekeeping routine of weekly hive inspections has been going on for some time now. We lost one colony early in the year, but still have three others working away. One of these we are a little concerned with, as the new queen does not appear to be laying in any quantity, and we may need to intervene with this colony. The other two, though, are doing very well. In total, we must have some 50lbs of honey in the supers, a fair bit of which has already been sealed up. This is excellent for what is still early in the season – especially here in our sheltered southerly locale, where the bees can be productive until late into the Autumn.
For some years I have joked with my dad about one the hives – a long deep hive, which he made himself out of odds and ends. It is well constructed, of course, as one would expect from an engineer, but I have always teased him about his scruffy hive. However, I have been thinking lately that this is consistently the most productive hive, and by quite some degree. Some years ago we placed a virgin gold queen in this hive, and she performed remarkably. The bees were very productive, docile, and showed no inclination to swarm. We were, in fact, so reluctant to replace her that she went three seasons before the colony produced a replacement, something they did without us even noticing. The bees are no longer gold, and instead rather dark, but the colony is still as productive as ever, perhaps even more so this year.
In many ways, the long deep hive is easier to manage, as the brood area is all on one level. With an entrance at each end, it can also be fairly easy to split and join colonies. However, we have never had to do this. There is a lot of space in the hive, with up to 24 frames, each of 12” by 14”, but even with the hive crammed full of bees – and this really is a huge colony – we have not once found a queen cell in any of our inspections. It can be hard work to go through such a large colony, and although we have to go through the others every week, we have often left this one alone, once we are happy that they are not going to swarm. This week we took a close look, because they have their replacement queen this season so did not know what to expect. The brood area is crammed full of stores of honey and pollen, along with large areas of healthy looking brood. Once again, there was not a single queen cell. In the supers we already have more than 40lbs of honey, not to mention an impressive amount put away below, which we will, of course, leave for the colony to use through the winter. Another interesting point – and perhaps this is just good fortune – is that we have fewer problems with varroa with this hive. We have had to treat the other colonies regularly, as is normal practice, but the long deep hive has not shown any sign of a varroa problem in the last few years. Perhaps the long deep hive configuration is simply better, for the bees and the beekeeper. Of course, we only have this one hive to go on, but it looks as though I might have to stop teasing my dad about his hive.