I got a chance this week to get into the bee-hives. I'd been keeping an eye on them and knew they needed to be checked on. They generally fly if it is over 50 degrees and if you see lots of bees entering and exiting a hive that means it is probably a strong hive.
One of my hives looked much stronger than the other and when I did open them up it was definitely the case. The weak hive had gotten off to a bad start as the original queen had not been a very good layer and the hive had already replaced her with a new one. I knew it was a new queen because the original one had been given a colored "dot" on it's back to make it easier to find. There was brood and eggs and worker bees coming in with pollen so it wasn't all bad.
The second hive was incredibly strong. I'd put three deep supers (boxes), and the top two were really heavy with bees, brood, and honey. When bees get strong they "make" another queen by feeding larva a special royal jelly and then the hives splits and one half will fly away and make a new hive in a tree or somewhere, usually to be never seen again. A loss for the beekeeper and the bees both as there are enough environmental factors that bees face that they really can't live on their own in the wild for long.
I noticed several queen cells in the frames so these bees were planning on splitting; so rather than lose half the bees I took one of the heavy supers with all its bees, honey, and brood and moved it to a new base. I then added an empty super, put on a cover, and left them. I'd made sure that each hive had fresh bee eggs and everything they needed in case they needed to make a new queen.
I then took a few frames of brood from what was left of the strong hive and gave them to the first hive I'd checked (the weak hive) by swapping them for empty frames.
So now I have three hives of bees instead of two. I could have been more thorough and found the queen in the strong hive and then given the new hive all the queen cells to get them off to a quicker start but by this time the bees weren't real happy and I was glad to get everything in place and get out of there. I'll let the bees do their thing and will try to check them all again in a couple weeks. Once a strong hive decides to swarm it usually does, so I'll keep my eyes out for a bee swarm for the next week or so in case they do. It is early enough in the season that I will have another few chances to swap around frames between hives in case I need to balance them out again.
It's a little intimidating since bees have such a complex and intricate communication and society system. I'm not very familiar with on-line gaming, but working with bees seems to me to be a little like some of the world building gaming programs where people can build their own little civilizations. In this case, the beekeeper is the gamer who manipulates the apiary to be a socialist society where each hive shares to the benefit of all. I don't know what you win if you win in an on-line gaming contest, but it can't be any better than the sweet golden honey you win with a successful bee colony.
First photo: A frame of brood from the weaker hive. That's capped honey in the upper left hand corner of the frame. There are 10 frames like this that fit into a deep super and you generally have two deep supers to a hive for the "living quarters" of the hive and then put smaller honey supers above them for the bees to store honey.
Of course the bees don't alwayf follow the living arrangements we plan for them.
Second photo: A close-up of a frame with brood and worker bees. CR: Maple & Main Media