Taking Stock: Pre-Spring Beekeeping Prep

The nights are warmer, the days are longer, and beekeeping is on our minds. Our top-bar hive, Mondo, beat the odds and made it through the winter despite high mite counts in December and early January.

Now the bee population is skyrocketing. When we peered up into the hive last week, we were met with the smell of honey and the sight of newly drawn comb covered in bees. We had reduced the size of the hive for winter, and decided that it was time to give the bees more room. We moved over the board that had divided the hive in half, added extra top-bars, and voila!

A view of Mondo's top-bars after we removed the outer cover.

An inventory of our bee boxes, which have been overwintering in the garage, reveals that we’re due to place an equipment order (and/or get out the hammer and saw) if we want to keep more than five hives this year. And we do.

A leaning tower of Langstroth brood boxes and honey supers (the brood boxes are the bigger ones).

We’re in conversation with several of my fellow San Mateo County Master Gardeners about the possibility of keeping hives in their gardens. We made three field trips last weekend to meet potential beehive hosts and have another three scheduled for this weekend. We will miss watching all the hives from our kitchen window, but we’re excited to expand the apiary.

How many hives will we keep? We’re not sure, but we’ve tossed around numbers like 8 to 12. Last year, we populated each of our first two hives with 3 lb. packages of commercially bred bees. This year, we’re hoping to get most of our bees from swarms, thereby (in theory) letting the bees figure out their own genetics and better adapt to our area.

Kelly put out calls tonight to several beekeeper friends and acquaintances who told us in the past that they might be able to provide us with some swarms. Now we have to sit back and wait to see how lucky we get. From what I understand, swarm season starts in March around here and lasts through part of the summer (one of our hives swarmed in late June last year).

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