We get Queens from the Big Island. There are no packages available here and bees don't fly in airplanes for 5-6 hours very well. We capture swarms or split hives.
We have Langstroth hives and we do use excluders when we are getting ready for a harvest. We can usually harvest every three to four months. One of the queens we have makes a strong brood, but she is small and cannot be contained by an excluder and she likes to brood in the top box like a wild queen, so we have our brood box on top. Otherwise she will brood in the super. We left the excluders out on most of our hives because we have a lot of problems with hive beetles so we want to build hives with a lot of bees so they can defend the hive better.
We just treated the hives with MAQ's. Our bees can continue to forage during this time of year but the honey is darker because of the kinds of flowers that are available to them.
We started replacing the foundations and frames on the hives because they were getting old. The bees did not seem to like the new foundations and were slow to build on them, preferring to build between the frames and hung combs from the inner cover. Usually we buy frames with foundation because the cells are more even. I don't know why these bees are so reluctant to build on them.
We are only allowed to keep 4 hives which makes harvesting less practical since sometimes we don't have a lot of supers to harvest. We used to freeze the supers of capped honey but it is hard to get someone to transport it to the freezer and it takes a long time to thaw and spin. With so few hives, and because we don't want to keep a lot of honey on the hives we have to have more small harvests of 1-3 supers rather than 5 or more supers. It raises our costs since fixed costs are the same.
Right now we have 5 hives because one was weak. If we have 5 strong hives, we have to give one away or have it taken to another apiary where they are allowed to have more. If we lose a hive, we can either capture a swarm or get another hive from the other apiary.
The hives we have belong to the university and they are part an educational program to learn about beekeeping and to teach the public about bees and pollinators. We have a teaching hive and an observation hive we can use for outreach and we have advanced education sessions. Some of our members do have their own hives, most start out with a top bar hive since it is the easiest to build.
Some of us don't have the space, and just want to take care of the bees we have. I just take care of the bees at the garden, I don't really have the space or the time to keep bees at home. I do plant my yard to attract bees and pollinators so I have a variety of nectar and pollen plants for them and unless it rains (an they stay home), I get bee visits a couple of times a day. They like the alyssum, cuphea, basil and Mexican oregano. Those plants are pretty much in bloom year round for me. The bees are slowly making a comeback. After the varoa mite and hive beetle started attacking the bees in 2011, most of the bees died. For a while I went from a bee every inch to a single bee in my front yard. Swarms from managed hives are restocking the wild bees and more are returning but not in great numbers. More people are interested in beekeeping and managed hives will probably in the end be the only survivors as the wild bees will continue to have to deal with varoa and small hive beetles. Unfortunately, the wild hives also have to contend with people who kill them when they swarm around their homes.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.