Early this afternoon, I noticed a group of bees outside the red hive taking orientation flights. These bees have recently hatched and so far they have worked exclusively inside the hive. Today they came outside for the first time, stretching their wings and practicing flight for foraging later. Orientation flights occur only three or four feet away from the hive, giving the bees a chance to learn their neighborhood and program their internal global positioning systems. This is an excellent sign that the hive is producing new babies, so their queen must be alive and well.
Of our three hives, this is the only hive to successfully survive the long winter. The blue hive was completely dead, so we harvested the honey, cleaned out the dead bees, and closed all the entrances. The green hive had a few surviving worker bees but no queen. We transferred the survivors to the healthy red hive, harvested honey, removed dead bodies, and closed all the entrances. We use the low-tech crush and strain method of honey harvesting, and we put by about 30 pounds of honey from the two hives.
As the red hive multiplies, we will transfer a few top bars of comb with eggs and larvae into one of the empty hives. This is known as making a split or splitting the hive. The bees should crown a new queen because any worker egg can be groomed into a queen. Beehives grow at an astonishing rate in the spring. We hope to have two or even three hives thriving in a few months.