The hive boxes reserved for surplus honey have several names in North America. For beekeepers planning to extract honey with the help of a spinner, the most commonly used honey box (or honey super) is the Medium Super, also called the Western Super, and sometimes called an Illinois Super. This super is a box of 6 and 5/8" depth. Sometimes people call it a shallow super. While this sounds reasonable, it creates confusion because "Shallow Super" is the name given to the truly shallow box, the 5 and 3/4" super. This shallow box is typically used by beekeepers planning to harvest honey in 4" squares directly from the comb. These squares are often called "cut comb" honey. In other parts of the world different sizes are used. We know quite a few Ukrainian beekeepers who use the 9 and 5/8" deep hive box for honey. These are very heavy when full of honey, and we don't recommend it unless you are built like a Russian weight lifter. In North America, this size is typically reserved for the brood chamber.
Finally, after several poor years in the Willamette Valley, we are seeing a good spring for bees. If this weather keeps up, over-wintered hives should have a good honey yield, and first-year hives will at least build up a good store of food for winter. If you plan to use a queen excluder under your honey super, don't install it immediately. When the hive is ready for honey-supering, add the super first. Then wait for a few days to allow the bees to start drawing out wax before installing the queen excluder.
If your hive smells bad and has brown streaks on the front, the colony is probably is probably suffering from a disease called Nosema apis. This digestive tract disease is typically associated with bad weather in spring when bees are unable to fly. It can often be managed with antibiotic treatments such as Fumagilin. Alternative non-antibiotic products are available, but we have less data on their effectiveness. Examples are Nozevit, Bee Cleanse, and Honey B Healthy.
In this cool, rainy weather, your package bees cannot get out much. They rely on what you feed them. It is crucial you feed them in this kind of weather. They will quickly starve without food. Even in the warmer weather, you need to feed them until the nectar flow is strong enough, at which point they will stop taking your food in favor of natural forage.
Once your packages are installed in your hive, don't disturb the bees for at least seven days. Disturbing the hive during this period can increase the chance of queen rejection. You can check your feeders, but do it carefully.
New beekeepers: if you are picking up package bees very soon, make sure you feed them and continue to feed them until there is clearly a strong nectar flow. Remember, these bees have no stored food from last year. The only food available is what you feed them and the forage from the notoriously unreliable spring nectar flow in the Willamette Valley and other parts of the Northwest. It is best to feed them sugar syrup and some pollen substitute. The substitute comes in powder form or as a patty.
Ruhl Bee has recently introduced a fascinating new hive, the Ruhl Long Hive. We will describe in more detail in later blogs, but briefly, it is a horizontal hive, but has far more flexibility than a Kenya top-bar hive and it is fully compatible with standard Langstroth hives and equipment. It can be run as a standard hive or top-bar hive, allows multiple colonies in one hive, and uses a follower board. More to come on this.
We are still taking orders for package bees, but the order queue will close soon. You can still order online through our website. Our projected arrival date is still the first half of April. We will continue to provide arrival updates on our website. For Kenya hive beekeepers, the package of bees is much easier to transfer than a nucleus hive.