May the force bee with you (The Mars hive Strikes Back)

This has been a busy month. Work, bike riding, yard tending, getting ready for a high school graduation, and of course bees. This is my second of three topics I wanted to cover under a Star Wars theme. The picture says it all.

Fallen Mars

It is never good when the hive falls over. ©Erik Brown

I thought Mars would be my best production hive this year, and she still may be. To arrive at the above picture, let’s review a little history.

Mars, a history

My first full inspection of the hive was at the end of March. She was four mediums strong and I found the following:

  • Telescoping cover with a solid inner cover.
  • A super fairly full of nectar and honey on top (box 4). This was the leftovers from my failed hive Jupiter.
  • Two brood boxes (2-3), with a nice pattern of brood and larva across the center four frames (so 8 frames of brood total).
  • A fairly empty bottom box (box 1).
  • A slatted rock on top of a screen bottom board.

Mars on March 25, 2017. ©Erik Brown

Not wanting this hive to swarm, I reversed the bottom three boxes so the empty box 1 was on top of the brood nest (boxes 2-3). I also placed a box of foundation (box 5) on top to give them some room to expand. The result is shown in the picture.

Sometime shortly after I replaced the solid inner cover with a screened inner cover, as a number of people recommend them and I wanted to try it.

A week later the third box (the former box 1) was getting filled with nectar and the hive was in good shape. During April the hive grew and the brood nest expanded into the third box, which I noticed on April 30. I’m not sure why now, but I reversed the boxes again on April 30, moving the bottom box which was fairly empty at that point on top of the two brood boxes. I’m not sure if this was a good thing to do or not.

Present Day

After this second reversal, worrying about the nucs as mentioned in my last post was in full swing and I didn’t really touch the hive until this past weekend, on May 26. Typically I make sure the telescoping cover is on solid ground; this time I set it on top of a concrete brick. What could go wrong?

Here is what I found on Saturday

  • The top box (5) was fine, mostly empty with a single honey frame I had previously pulled up from a lower box.
  • Box 4 was heavy, every frame capped or nearly capped honey.
  • Box 3 had a lot of nectar and some empty comb. I had expected to find brood here, but there was none to be seen.
  • Box 2 contained nectar and pollen, and again no brood.

Then the trouble started. I placed box 2 on top of my stack (so it now had box 5 on the bottom to box 2 on top). As I was turning to the bottom (box 1), the stack starting falling towards me. I consider myself lucky to have noticed and caught it. Having four boxes of bees fall on me does not sound like fun, even fully suited.

I carefully righted the boxes and adjusted the concrete brick to be stable. I really wanted to check the bottom box for brood, so I turned back to the hive. Of course, then the boxes fell the other way (away from me). Four boxes, 32 frames, and thousands of bees.

You know you are a special kind of beekeeper when your hive falls over and, after a moment of panic, you grab your camera. A more dedicated beekeeper might have jumped to the task of rectifying the situation. Fortunately, I am not that beekeeper. The picture at the top of this post proves it.

Propolis is a wonderful thing. The first two boxes (5 and 4) were near the bottom and still pretty stuck together. I pulled these up boxes and frames, no problem. The next one (box 3) was also mostly okay, and I was able to get the box together with only a little trouble. The final one (box 2) was a mess, with frames outside the hive and bees everywhere.

My new Ultra Breeze suit was fantastic. Ventilated so you really can feel the slightest breeze, and I have yet to get a sting through it. Bees everywhere, pinging my veil and otherwise not very happy. Not a single sting. I put box 2 on the hive and moved each frame back into the box. From here it was somewhat straightforward to put boxes 3, 4, and 5 on top and close up the hive.


In the end, I have no idea if Mars has a queen or not. Did she swarm this past month? Did a young queen end up on the ground outside the hive, or is she in the bottom box? Is there brood in the bottom box?

My guess is that the hive swarmed or the queen died. That seems the best explanation for no capped brood in boxes 2 and 3. Really a shame as it means I have lost a months worth of foragers, and my hope for a bit more honey production this year may be gone. Our forage pretty much dries up in July and August.

It seemed prudent to close up the poor hive and let her recover for a couple days, so I did. I will do a lower-box inspection next weekend to see what is going on.

May the force be with you (The Empire Strikes Back)

These three posts are based on the “peace be with you” phrase of the Star Wars universe, along with the first three films to appear in theaters.

The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980 as the sequel to the original film. This film is considered by many (myself included) to be the best of the series. The universe was firmly established and the installment was set three years later. The sage unfolds and sets the stage for the final installment of the original trilogy.

I mentioned that I have three stories to tell, and this is actually the third one. Since Mars is considered the God of War, though, it seemed appropriate to use with the second film. That and I believe Mars has given me more stings than any other hive (see Mars, the Bringer of Stings). I’m not sure that a hive falling over counts as “striking back” although it certainly was an unexpected experience.

May you prosper and find honey.

2 thoughts on “May the force bee with you (The Mars hive Strikes Back)

  1. Yikes! What a photo! Lucky for us you are not “a more dedicated beekeeper.” 😉

    Glad you got her back together, but wow, it must have been quite the afternoon.


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