I have been trying to become a beekeeper for something like 5 years now. I have had some spectacular failures where a $100 package of bees absconded and never did anything in the hives I installed them in. Other times the have appeared to do well but I have yet to have a hive successfully overwinter. A couple of time I believe it was due to mice taking up residence in the hive, other time I’m just plain baffled. I haven’t harvested any honey to date and this last year there were two deeps mostly full of honey when they went into winter. I peaked in when we had a warm day in S.E. Michigan and the hive looks dead again. I haven’t tore the hive all apart yet to do an autopsy of the hive as the Treatment-Free Facebook group I follow says bees can look dead but just be not moving due to cold. I’m not too hopeful because my friend with a hive a few miles away saw his bees out flying that day.
My friend caught a swarm whereas I got a package of bees from the south. I’m starting to suspect that my problem is I really need northern bees, ones that can survive the Michigan winter. Previously I have not been able to find local bees, but I did just recently find a source of over-wintered nucs. If they have any available for this year I’m going to try that. I’m also going to put out my deeps as swarm traps in the hopes of catching a swarm from a feral colony or at least one that has over-wintered successfully.
Further I’m finding I really don’t like lifting the 10 frame deeps, which can weigh close to 100 lbs when full of honey. Therefore I’m going to try a horizontal hive that takes the standard deep frames. This is something I’ll have to build, but it is well within reach of my woodworking skills. The down-side is they are very hard to move because they are large and can be very heavy. However I have no reasons to move my hives, so that isn’t an issue. The advantage is you really only have to lift one frame at a time.
I have found I really like the foundation-less frames that Kelley Bees sells as this lets the bees build whatever size cells they want. I’m not a big fan of the idea of having foundation with larger than normal cells on it that forces the bees to be bigger. I like the idea of natural cell size better. Also when it comes to harvesting honey I can just cut out the comb and either keep it as comb honey or crush and strain it as I don’t have an extractor.
Hopefully 2016 will be the year I am a good enough beekeeper to have hives that live until spring of 2017. Sign up for e-mail updates in the upper right corner of this site to follow my progress, good or bad.