I definitely love my new office. It doesn't get better than this. Springs magnificence is something to bee-hold, and I'm so glad to I get to truly enjoy it this year. The tulip poplar trees are in full bloom, and honey is trucking into the hives at a massive rate. This is the foremost food supply of our bees here in the Piedmont of the Old North State. Aren't they beautiful? I am lucky that my neighborhood is surrounded by an amazing grove of these awesome trees with flowers the size of your fist supplying a huge supply of delicious nectar to my honey bees.
With an amazing nectar flow comes an amazing swarm season. Many swarm cells were taken from my big honey producing hive this year. Fortunately for me, the hive returned from its initial swarm while I was away from "the office", some 35 feet up a tree, back to its hive. I found the queen, corralled her for a bit, made several new starts off these gorgeous queen cells, knocked down the rest, gifted them a super of drawn comb that she can lay in, did a little bit of checkerboarding, put a queen excluder on the bottom board in case they wanted to swarm out again to prevent the queen from leaving with them (so they'd return) and knocked down all remaining queen cells.
Such gorgeous queen cells are yielding amazing split opportunities, which means MORE NUC's! I am making and selling nucleus colonies this year, and loving the ride.
T's bes are drawing out foundation as fast as I put it in and filling it up with nectar from all the foliage that this spring is yielding.
I've been leaving all these purple tiny whatever flowers in my yard, which is taking over my grass. I mow it when I have to, but put my mower at a high setting so the bees can enjoy the nectar these tiny blooms have to offer.
We had a three-day period of major rainfall recently. Even during temperatures in the low- to mid-50's and rain all around, the honey bees made their way to the old watering hole at the birdbath turned bee bath whenever they could. Once trained on a water source, they come back no matter what.
I put up a couple of swarm traps, one in the tree that my honey hive originally swarmed to before returning to its hive. Immediately scout bees checked out the traps!
Here are a couple of scout bees checking out the trap I'd just installed. The best swarms are the ones that come to you. But they won't if you don't have your swarm traps up!
These magnificent flowers, not irises but I think something of a relative, not only brighten a rainy day but provide a gorgeous plate for my honey bees to enjoy some food.
Our blackberries and raspberries are also exploding, and my honey bees are having a ball pollinating those flowers as well. Yes, THIS is truly the best office I have ever had, praise the Lord!
If you would've told me in January that I'd have nucleus colonies and swarms coming out of my ears, as well as a bountiful honey harvest underway I may have been skeptical. This swarm was captured on Palm Sunday. It was hanging on a peach tree branch above my apiary. Another "God sign" and blessing. This came just days after I sold several nuc's to my friend George.
There it was, hanging just a few feet above. Capturing this swarm gave me a chance to try my handy-dandy telescoping swarm bucket that I built for about $22 all told. A rock solid investment. Worked like a charm!
The swarm bucket is awesome. I can now collect swarms easily that are 18 feet off the ground, or less. After spraying them with sugar water, I shook them into the bucket. Then, I dropped them into a nuc box with 3 frames removed. I was certain the queen was in there, and fanners told me that was the case.
I use an old bed sheet to help the bees quickly march up and into their new home. I took a couple of trips back to the tree with the swarm bucket and just dumped them onto the sheet. In they marched.
And then, once a baggy feeder I put atop the frames started leaking? Well, OUT they came en masse! I heard them swarming back out in a haste and knew I couldn't stop them. Lesson learned on the baggy feeder (I put too much syrup into the baggy, and since this little box had a solid bottom, they did not like that one whit. I know I like to sweeten the deal, but this is what overdoing it will get you.
So, this is what it looked like in just a few minutes: swarm #2 for the day, same group of bees on the same branch. I was REALLY breaking in my new swarm bucket! Swarming bees have their bee guts filled with honey before they take off for the initial flight, so my adding food immediately was an ill-fated move. Live and learn.
Not exactly knowing why they'd swarmed out again, this time I took further precautions. I installed the bees in a different location in my apiary annex (I'm expanding by nucs and swarms!) into a full size deep hive body. I gifted them a cross-combed, food-filled Duragilt frame from the freezer. I knew keeping it around for just this reason was a good idea.
Definitely got the queen (again) on this second capture. Look at all those bee butts in the air signaling she was inside.
I also took a page out of my friend George's book and did the "McAllister technique": I put a queen excluder atop the bottom board first, then the hive body on top of it. That way if the colony and queen decide to up and leave, she will be preventing from leaving and they'll all return back to into the hive, which is EXACTLY where I want to keep these beautiful bees.
This was my 10th swarm capture in my bee yard, and 11th overall. I only had 8 colonies coming out of winter so this was definitely a gift from God. I keep making bees, and selling them earning some extremely valuable income as I'm still looking for my next career move following a corporate layoff. And the good Lord above keeps giving them to me. I'll take each and every gift with a big smile on my face, and many thanks lifted up. This sure is a fun and rewarding way to go!
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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