This whole beekeeping thing has turned into quite an adventure. On July 1st, the bees swarmed and I was heartbroken until I went into the hive the next day and found that it was jam-packed full of bees and there were a LOT of queen cells. I took off eleven frames of honey and removed the queen excluder (the hive was so full of brood and honey she had nowhere left to lay eggs). Based on advice from my bee mentor, I went in the following week and split the hive, taking four frames of brood, four of honey and installing two empty frames in the new hive. Within three weeks, both hives had very active, very healthy queens.
Both have done very well and I took several small harvests of honey from the original hive, totaling 72 lbs of honey. I realize that this is an amazing amount of honey from a first-year hive and am feeling very blessed.
I went in yesterday to check on the girls and also to add hive-top feeders, as we've been through several hard frosts now and they've been hanging out around our soda can barrel looking for something to eat (fortunately we keep it firmly lidded!). I'm using medium supers all throughout the hives and each have two boxes that are about 1/3 brood and the rest honey, plus one full box of honey. Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get them through the winter.
We had an early bloom this year and many, many flowers throughout the season, which I credit with my grand success. Also, we have a huge field next to us that was planted in soybeans. The beans were infested with aphids and I learned that bees will harvest honey dew from the aphids - which gives it a characteristic dark color and citrusy flavor. Very, very good honey.
I'm planning on expanding the apiary next year. I'm hooked!