Sweet roses in full bloom after an evening rain heralded our transition from early to mid spring. This year's color and flower show is truly amazing.
A sight to make any bee and beekeeper happy are the giant tulip poplars, whose huge blooms proclaim that mid-spring is here! The honey flow has been a whopper from what I can tell, and now it's in full flow mode with these giants offering up so much nectar.
A week or so ago I supered one of my production hives with another super, its second. This one was 10 frames with Plasticell foundation I'd given an extra wax coating to. How had they been doing? This greeted me when I opened the box. I was giddy.
This super had every frame drawn at least halfway on both sides. And they're packing it with nectar (and a little bit of pollen) as they build them out.
And yes, the queen is laying up there. I don't use an excluder just yet. Where the queen goes, so goes the colony. So restricting her away from the super when I'm trying to get it drawn is counter-productive. Soon I will put an excluder on and let them finish this super out. After that any brood left up there will hatch out and they'll back-fill that with more nectar as the honey flow is on. (I actually stole this frame and gifted it to another nucleus hive start that was having trouble producing a queen.) Here you can see just how EASY it is to spot eggs using the black Plasticell foundation. "Yaay!" my eyes said with great relief. Future inspections will be even more efficient.
Everything's in bloom it seems. I always enjoy seeing the twisted old pine trees in our neighborhood put on its version of a blossom display.
I've always loved this weeping willow tree, and all the layers of texture and color in our local canopy.
I love these flowers. I've seen them growing up on neighbor's mailboxes. These were at my favorite park in Charlotte, where Yvonne and I had a picnic Saturday.
I thought honey bees ignored roses. I saw quite a few buzzing about the rose labyrinth at the park where we picnicked. I truly love Charlotte.
The hues are so intense on these roses they're almost over-saturating the image. It's easy to see how the impressionists were inspired.
"Look, honey bees!" I exclaimed as we lost our way in the tiny maze.
I hated to leave, but got another parting shot. So far I'm really enjoying this spring like no other. I think it has a lot to do with learning to take some time to literally smell the roses.
Carolina morning colors to send one off on their way is a happy palette.
Orientation flights remain one of my most favorite things to witness and experience in the bee yard. There's nothing like the sight, feel and sound of it. Here's a video of a Friday afternoon's orientation. Right now it's occurring around 3:30 each afternoon. When someone says, "your bees are swarming" they usually mean this. It's something mentees aren't used to and wonder "what's happening?" All good things, as young bees orient themselves to their home and learn to fly.
It was time to say goodbye to some over-wintered nuc's that I'd used to make even more colonies. It was bittersweet loading up these spectacular queens and nuc's for sale and travel. I used the Brushy Mountain "superior design" nuc box. It's heavily waxed. But it does not secure itself, meaning the bottom will fall out unless you secure it. But tape on a waxed surface doesn't work well, not even duct tape as you can see here. Still, clear mailing tape on the outsides did the trick. This nuc was the largest I said goodbye to. It is MONSTROUS. When I started out 6 years ago my two Russian nuc's were teensy in comparison, not even a third of this size. I do believe in providing my best to the customer.
A third nuc was finally all settled in, and showed off a nice group of bees. The next morning before the temps rose high enough for the bees to start flying I shut the entrances on the nuc boxes so the customer wouldn't lose the field force.
Goodbye, sweet 2015 nuc's. You've been amazing. I kept the screen raised on each with a wine cork. After inspection with the customer, we lowered the screen mesh sans cork and they were ready for travel. They rewarded me with a single sting as I carried a nuc to his vehicle. Seemed like a perfect parting gift.
After those goodbyes, it was time to say hello to my next round of queens in the making and nucleus hive starts. Here's a beautiful frame with several queen cells, the last of which is being capped (you can see the tip of the queen larvae inside the open cell).
I made sure to put at least two frames of bees in each, and opted for a third in the long run just to be sure. A frame of food and a frame of capped brood went into each start.
More beautiful queen cells on a gorgeous frame mixed with worker brood and honey. A perfect frame to make a start with. All in all, I took one hive and hopefully will end up with five when all is said and done (the old queen with her contingent making up one of the nuc's, so 4 new colonies plus an artificial swarm with the original queen).
This same hive that generated such beautiful queen cells was also generating lots of honey. Queenless bees in a populous hive during a spring nectar flow will put up some honey. Just two weeks ago it got its first honey super. The frames were half drawn and filled with capped honey. Fresh honey on fresh comb is also one of my favorite things.
While mowing the grass I stopped to literally smell the flowers. These little tiny flowers of "weeds" (or survivor plants as I call them) were one of the first flowers to greet them as they came out of winter. So I let the plants flower before I cut them.
The grand old red tip tree is in full bloom now, as are the tulip poplars around our neighborhood. Morning sun on their fluffy throngs of blossoms was also a beautiful way for me to say hello to a new day and week as I said goodbye for now.
My nucleus colonies, the ones over-wintered from 2015 and my new spring 2016 nucs, continue to amaze me. The beautiful virgin wax they are building on all my foundations is a sight to behold, but even better is the ever-expanding amount of honey, the different colors of pollen mixed down into bee bread, royal jelly and eggs galore. This shot is a wonderful capsule of an amazing spring so far. Just two weeks ago this was only foundation.
Same for this frame. In just two weeks, this and two other frames of Duragilt foundation has been drawn out beautifully, laid top to bottom with worker eggs and honey around the edges. You can't ask for much more than this. I was amazed at this new queen's production. And it's something I must manage (and will, thanks to Hive Tracks).
This was one of my production colonies which had threatened to swarm. Instead I artificially swarmed it's queen and 3 frames of workers and food. I kept their door screened closed for 3 days to prevent the workers from drifting back to their original stand. After 3 days, they were READY to get out. I loved seeing them flood the open air at once as soon as I removed the screen, and begin re-orienting to their new space.
Quickly they settled down after stretching their wings, as sundown was only a few minutes away. But they seemed thrilled. I certainly was.
My time was very limited thanks to the approach of twilight and a healthy to-do list. This hive I inspected the bottom brood chamber just a few days prior. This was the same nutty hive that keeps building comb on its screened inner cover. (See that solid inner cover in the background? That replaced the screened inner cover!) To be efficient I also did a quick inspection of its top brood chamber by looking at the bottom of the frames. You can tell a lot without pulling a single frame. I cleaned up the brace comb they'd built and looked for swarm cells.
No swarm cells yet, but I did find 2 or 3 queen cups. So they're thinking about it and staying in practice. I knocked these down as I saw them.
This colony is currently queenless (remember that artificial swarm I mentioned earlier?). I expect to find a bunch of capped queen cells made from eggs when I go back into this hive in just a few days from now. But I learned in seasons past that large queenless hives will put up a ton of honey during a nectar flow. So it was time to take advantage. I gave them their first honey super to draw out, using Plasticell medium frames up top.
Speaking of Plasticell, one of my nuc's quickly took to drawing out a beautiful frame on the black plastic core which I bought pre-waxed and added more wax to it (see my previous post on that here). Well, they are LOVING it and drawing out a gorgeous black frame. It is so weird and cool seeing the beautiful fresh white comb being drawn on the re-usable plastic core. They were working both sides of this frame, and the queen can begin laying in it already.
Speaking of, here is the queen in that same nuc. Quite a beauty, another of my young productive queens from this year's bevy of new queens. And hopefully one of many yet to come. Another color of spring I love: queen amber!
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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