The Bee Blog: Too Much Space or Too Little Space, That is the Question

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I haven’t done much to my hives since my last bee blog, but I have thought about them a lot. I’ve also visited them daily, feeling happy about their activity and knowing that a total of four super boxes on the two hives are at Honey capacity, while three other supers are being filled as I type this.

As the four supers became full, I carefully labeled each of them with “TP,” standing for tulip poplar, because that was the type of nectar that was flowing when the bees filled them. The newer, unlabeled boxes currently being filled with honey will contain random June flower nectar that most likely comes from my neighbors’ yards. I’ve had the random thought that perhaps we can hold a taste test later on, and become honey connoisseurs, sort of like wine connoisseurs.

But, I digress. I’ve been feeling so confident about my bees’ production that I even ordered more empty supers, just in case I need to collect more honey. I also thought about how many jars I would need in the next online order. However, I should knock on wood, as all of this good news can go south at a moment’s notice.

The boxes are stacking up: 4 supers collecting honey on top of 2 hive bodies

Although I’ve ordered them, the supers are on back order, so I don’t have them quite yet. Until the new collection boxes arrive, I haven’t wanted to disturb the hive with an inspection, which involves physically going through the supers and the hive bodies.

Instead, I recently decided to go back into my small, empty hive body that was being invaded by wax moths the last time I checked. That time, I dug out some nasty patches of worms and webbing, then replaced the frames back into the hive. This time, I peeked inside the box and found more worms and webbing throughout the hive.

So, I pulled all the frames out and put them in the sun with their writhing, little worms, then ran inside and Googled “wax moths clean up.” I ended up using a diluted Clorox and water solution and scrubbed the main box. I also continued to bake the frames in my driveway in the sun. I figured dark and damp could be replaced by sunny and hot, and hopefully, that would air these frames out while I figured out the ultimate solution to my problem.

Frames baking in the sun complete with honey and writhing little wax moth worms.

Online, I found lemon juice and water concoctions that I could use to clean the frames out, and also read about an old trick I have already used in the past: I could freeze the frames for three days, which supposedly kills the wax moth eggs and larva. However, my freezer is just so small, and here I have 10 frames.

Home made wax moth trap: fermented banana peel, sugar, vinegar, and water

One website also described a homemade trap filled with a banana peel, vinegar, sugar, and water that has fermented. You put this all in a bottle with a hole near the neck. Then, if you hang the bottles in the trees near the hives, the moths will fly in and cannot get out. Maybe, I will try that once I’ve been to the grocery and get more bananas, since we’ve run out. In the meantime, the bees in the neighborhood are having a bonanza, licking all of the honey out of those frames in my driveway. I woke up early one morning to walk the dog, and witnessed an Alfred Hitchcock ‘Birds’ scene, only with bees’ in the front yard at 6 AM. It was all we could do to race out and jump into our cars for work without a bunch of bees also jumping in for the ride.

Girls guarding the bounty

The empty box in my yard, though, is a constant reminder of what can go wrong when the boxes are left unguarded. I need to appreciate my blessings with the two hives stacked tall with supers. But, therein lies the quandary. If I give those ladies too much space too soon by adding new supers, once they are finally delivered, then my bees could have too much territory to guard, providing an opportunity for the critters – the wax moths and the hive beetles – to destroy all of the bees’ work. On the other hand, if my two colonies continue to thrive and reproduce, they will definitely need a bigger house or they could swarm, which means the colony splits, and I’m again left with only half the bees to guard the liquid gold, which again means there would be an opportunity for the non-bee critters to take advantage. It’s a true dilemma, and what is a beekeeper to do?

Janice Fisher is a local beekeeper in Annapolis who’s had her fair share of bee stings but loves her bees just the same.

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