Swarm Season OH My!

Well I am no longer in anticipation of Spring because it has arrived. The grass has gotten greener and the tasks in the apiary have increased tenfold!

Swarmy Swarm

There is lots of pollen and nectar coming into the hives with the some what warmer temperatures. It’s beautiful and prime time for swarming!!

Last year I caught a swarm in May of 2021. It was relocated to my apiary where the colony established itself well. On 22nd April 2022 around 11:30AM – Noon, this same colony, decided to swarm just before I had to leave to meet someone. Thankfully someone retrieved them for me.

Today is 29 April, 2022, a week later. Perfect day to drive to the Amish man who makes wooden hive ware. We had a wonderful visit with him and his family. On the way home the neighbor called and said one of his colonies had swarmed and had some questions. We pass his house on the route home so we stopped and could see the swarm from the driveway. We parked and walked to the tree and just that quick they had flown away. Then it was homeward bound. The wooden ware was off loaded into the garage for painting and then I was off to the apiary. I was greeted with a colony with extreme bearding. I scratched my head because it wasn’t really hot enough for the bees to do this. Plus this isn’t normal behavior. I went to the she bee shed and grabbed a bottom board and a single deep and lid. When I returned to the colony I stood in front of it still perplexed. Then my eyes dropped down into the hen bit growing on the ground. Almost like a homing beacon there was the blue dot 🔵 marked queen! This was a miracle. I happen to know this queen’s wings are tattered because she is actually getting old. The best she could do was land in front of the hive. So I brushed the bees on the side of the hive into the new deep along with the blue dot queen who will get replaced this season season.

Say w-h-a-t !

So with a sense of accomplishment I worked my way to another colony. I no sooner cracked the lid and I hear that familiar sound from another nearby colony. That’s right, another swarm at around 4:00 PM 😵‍💫 This time I was going to have to earn the bees back.

Seriously another thorny swarm retrieval

So what have I learned? Yes you can split in March when the weather is cool.

Spring Chill and Queen Grafting

Spring has been a slow arrival. March and April have been very rainy with the sunshine sprinkling our face on only a few occasions.

Spring marks rebirth and awaken. The honey bee is no exception. As the warmth dominates the urge to swarm increases because the queen bee is laying up more eggs. In a given day she can produce 1500 or more eggs which she purposely deposits in each cell. Within 21 days one frame of eggs will easily cover two frames. This produces a rapid increase in population and crowded conditions within the hive. The colony responds with preparations to swarm or reproduce itself. As more and more pollen and nectar are gathered the queen will deposit eggs in queen cups. When the timing is right the worker bees begin to extend the feeding of royal jelly to the select eggs in the queen cups which are now queen cells. Just prior to the emergence of a new queen or queens, the resident queen will leave with roughly half of the colony to take up residence somewhere else. Spring management is vital if one is to keep their bees. I’m constantly learning the art which demands a keen awareness of what the trees and plants are doing along with local weather patterns in relationship to the bee colonies.

If there is one thing I have learned in beekeeping it would have to be flexibility. Along with being able to think and navigate on ones feet. You can go in with a plan but often the the bees didn’t get the memo. That’s when you have to remain focused on the desired end results with adjustments.

Beefing up the warmth for the starter

The weather with my upcoming schedule hasn’t cooperated with my plan to graft queens. I was forced to make up the starter colony by packing a load of nurse bees into a five frame nuc box in the rain . The nuc colony is made queenless to induce the urge to make queen cells. The day after which was yesterday I made the grafts (another rainy day) and then placed them in the queenless nuc. Tonight is suppose to get down into the mid 20’s. The remaining days will be more seasonable. My thoughts had to go into ‘keep the bees’ warm mode. So I double wrapped the little hive with Reflectix along with additional insulation under the top cover inside and out. This should sufficiently allow them to get through the cold night without any stress.

1st & 2nd Graft Schedules

Wax On

When I initially purchased my first hives I was unaware the plastic foundation included was UNwaxed. I didn’t realize there were differences in foundation. I was just so enamored with putting everything together for my bees arrival.

As my first year progressed I began to notice there were some frames with what I call wonky comb. I didn’t get too concerned because it seemed like the bees took care of it. Probably because they had no choice.

I have since learned not all foundation is made the same. Last year when making all the splits I was forced to use some of the bare plastic foundation. Then I noticed the bees either didn’t use it at all or when they had to the comb was awful and made removing the frames a chore.

Now I know to purchase waxed foundation. For the remaining unwaxed foundation I have had to collect the burr comb scraped off the top bar of the frames and melt it down. Then the melted waxed after it has been slightly filtered is brushed or rolled onto the plastic foundation.

Waxed foundation helps increases the bees acceptance and they can also take advantage of the extra wax. But the absolute best is foundation with already drawn comb!

A rainy day activity in the bee yard

Beginnings of Spring

The Spring equinox is something every beekeeper anticipates along with the honey bees. The increasing daylight and warmer air temperatures slowly send energizing cues to the ground below and awakens the trees. The bees begin to use more energy raising brood as the queen senses the favorable conditions to building up the colony. The beekeeper changes focus from Winter survival to Spring management, in anticipation of the honey flow.

March went out like a lion with lingering cold temperatures and lots of wind. At some point the temperatures will begin to constantly stay warm.

Emerging drone! Queen grafting will begin soon
Early Spring snow
Successful overwintered honey bees

Striking a balance between swarm prevention and having a good population of bees to capitalize on the upcoming honey flow is a rewarding challenge.

At the moment the wait is on for drones to emerge while continuing to mature so they will be ready to mate with virgin queens.