Mimosa trees are in full bloom in Carolina, signaling the arrival of summer along with strong, heady honey and temps in the 90s.
In the mountains wild blackberries can be found everywhere, ripening up from roadside brambles. This was taken in Boomer, NC.
The advent of summer also signals diminishing food sources. I take heart when I see empty fields on city lots allowed to flower with natural weeds. This was a lot near a Target and Lowe's shopping center.
Beautiful, ain't it, these city weeds and grasses?
I took a peek into this hive and noticed a bad beekeeper error that the bees had made right: I left two empty slots in the top chamber above. So the bees attached beautiful combs to the underside of the lid and began filling it with summer honey. Unfortunately, my 5-minute peek into this hive became a bit longer of an adventure.
This fresh comb was full of early summer honey, and a little drone brood. I removed the brood comb from the honey comb, and did a crush and strain on the two combs of honey and nectar. It wasn't fully ready to harvest, about 65% done between the two combs. But even though it's a little runny, I realized I had a few extra pounds of delicious runny honey I could gobble up in the next month or two, and share some with honey-loving friends as well. It's flavor is stronger and color darker than the honey I harvested this spring. I find that dark honey is great in coffee, not so great in tea, while spring honey is what I prefer in my tea but not in my coffee. I would never sell this but boy does it taste delicious. Nothing wrong with it, just won't keep for very long on the shelf like fully cured honey will, whose moisture content has been reduced to 18.6% or less.
Proof that I finally made right the situation I caused in the first place. I was out of foundation for the time being so I made a starter strip out of the wedge for this frame and put it in place. Now it'll be removable for future inspections. Live and learn.
They also propolized the stuffing out of the inner cover (and you can see where they attached the combs in line, cool huh?). For the life of me I can't figure out which side goes down on these plastic inner covers. This was the flat side. Prying them off the boxes are a MAJOR pain. Why am I using inner covers anyway?! I ditched this and simply put my homemade insulated cover made from political signs and polystyrene insulation on top. No more propolis messes to contend with when removing the lids.
I have a low tolerance for suspicious frames and I had a few from failed queen starts I needed to get out of commission. Anything that looks spotty and doesn't smell quite right gets pulled out of the mix and melted down ASAP.
The brood, cocoons and other debris are all strained out (yuck).
Wax and propolis is floating atop the water. I had an idea!
I added more boiling water in to raise the level of water + wax + propolis and then re-strained the liquid. My bees spend 2 to 3 weeks ignoring commercially waxed Plasticell frames. They smell WEIRD! But if you put their own bit of waxy goodness on top, the bees jump all over the foundation and waste no time drawing it out.
I only had a few combs I'd melted down. Instead of waiting to harvest the wax and then remelt it later, why not coat the foundations now? Propolis and some dirt mixes in with the wax while the water drips off the frame. Less wax is used to re-coat the frames. Knock off the excess, flip over and repeat on the other side. Would this work? Only one way to find out. I got an additional 6 or 7 deep frames coated.
When the wax was used up and nothing but water was left hardly anything extra coated the frames except some propolis and little bits of extra wax. Still the sheets smelled MUCH BETTER than when I got them originally, and the commercial wax was still afixed to the Plasticell.
I was delighted to find honey bees all over the sheets an hour after I left them out to dry. They loved it!! Success, and now I know I can save time in harvesting wax and coating more Plasticell at the same time.
I also harvested the Duragilt plastic sheet from those old comb foundations and they were automatically re-waxed as I melted the old wax off. I strained everything out then dunked them back in the wax water. Everyone says that you can't re-use the sheets. Well, I aim to find out. This could be more trouble than its worth, but I love to experiment.
Another sign of summer is honey bees bearding on their hive fronts. When you see this it means several things: you have a GREAT queen making lots of bees, they need more space and they need improved ventilation. I added a shallow super above for them to draw (it was un-extra-waxed Plasticell, so they ignored it for a few weeks but have begun to draw it out), along with an extra ventilation shim. Staying cool on the front porch and in the shade is the name of the game in summertime here in beautiful Carolina.
White clover is in full bloom. It makes me a bit guilty to cut the "grass". I always give the girls a chance to finish up their foraging before I do.
T's Bees had a happy time pollinating my long-ignored and still-shouldn't-be-there apple tree this year. And we may get a few apples out of it.
My uncapping tank allowed all those extra fat, juicy comb cappings that were cut off during honey extraction to drain. I went on vacation and came back to this pleasant surprise.
I weighed the results after the cappings tank honey was filtered. It ended up being 28 pounds more of honey! Apparently, the numbers on the tank correspond (roughly) to pounds of honey yielded from the cappings. Pretty cool, hunh?
A magnificent mystery tree in full bloom. What is this thing?
I call it the "Rasta Tree" because of it's blooms that look like dreadlocks.
When I returned home I also was welcomed by my spiffy new license plate, thanks to an effort spearheaded last year by the Watauga County Beekeepers (way to go!!!).
This was the view of my apiary when I left. Peaceful and serene with a peach tree weighing down with fruit overlooking the apiary.
When I returned I was also delighted to find the two now queen-right nuc's in my queen castle had really exploded. That was great. What wasn't great? This nuc was agitated and it took me no time to see why: water had collected in the bottom of the "castle" and not drained out. It rained the whole time we were away, and these nuc's were unhappy. I suddenly went into "Oh, SNAP!" mode, had to make two more insulated outer covers for nucs and transfer these girls into decent digs, complete with screened bottom boards. While doing so, I removed one seriously cross-combed brood frame that I'd been putting off (when I spotted the queen on another frame, I knew it was time to take it), and a couple of others in the adjacent nuc. Both seem much happier now.
This is my favorite new tool of the trade: a dampened rag looped onto my pants. No more constantly sticky fingers completely mucking up everything, including my mobile phone screen as I try to take photos.
"Wow-ee, look at all those bees pass by my kitchen window," I said to Yvonne a couple hours after finishing up, including situating those nucs. Remember those cross-combs of brood? I put them in the queen castle, lidded it and put it in the sun at the edge of my carport. Apparently all the bees in the apiary were quite interested!
Even after I removed the box the bees were determined that something of value had been there. They could smell it, so they started pooling on this corner. Weird. Fortunately, this didn't set off robbing in the apiary. I knew that by going back to the hives and while seeing the heavy traffic there was no fighting on the landing boards and the hives weren't in a defensive mode (meaning, stinging everything and one that comes near them).
I solved the situation temporary by moving the queen castle to a shady part of the carport and then putting a bed sheet atop it. Throughout the rest of the day I lifted a corner and fanned bees out from under it until no more remained. One thanked me with a sting on my middle finger (it's ALWAYS the middle finger).
Our tiger lilies are in bloom. I didn't think that honey bees liked them but sure enough I've spotted one furiously working a blossom. I think it's a nectar source for them.
More random pretty flowers from neighbors mailboxes. I just love these colors, especially in the morning dew.
And the magnolias are quite magnificent here in May. I so love their aromas from these giant puffs of marshmallow white the size of dinner plates, filling the town with more Carolina magic and beauty. I drink it in.
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
Thank you for your support!
Subscribe by email