_great trees. We have 14 that I've counted in our neighborhood just by walking Olive, our scruffy border terrier. The tulip poplars bloomed at the very end of March, and were around until the beginning of May. After the tulip poplars were done, all of my beekeeping friends said "there is no nectar," or "it is done." I found that hard to believe. Granted, I was still in my first year of beekeeping. But what I was seeing around me said otherwise. The blackberry plants in our garden were also in bloom the month of April, and crimson clover began in May.
_ In addition to white clover, other honey plants in bloom during May, most of which I saw in my own neighborhood and on my commute to work, were black locust trees, black gum, holly, raspberry and privet. I also began to notice visual queues around me for tell-tale signs of the season. The whole month of April saw the gorgeous magnolia trees adorned with their big, amazing smelling flowers. And this honeybee below right showed a distinct interest on a 6-foot-tall cedar-like shrub that had these interesting blue buds ready to open. If anyone knows what this is, please let me know.
__Summer and Fall honey will have unique flavors of their own. I look forward to tasting them as well, and sharing with my awesome customers. Okay, well, at the end of May and the beginning of June, privet was all over the place here in Charlotte. As were the amazing mimosa trees, all around us. They were everywhere. I snapped shots of this magnificent specimen at the Family Dollar store on my way to work. Now, at the end of June the mimosas are dropping their gorgeous flowers, as are the magnolias. But man, what a show they gave us this spring! But in May began the fabled sourwood bloom. This year one of my neighbor's sourwood trees bloomed in mid-May and is still in full bloom. In the weeks following, I saw sourwoods all over Charlotte, most by the side of the roads and behind gas stations, homes, strip malls, you name it there was sourwood. Right now it's in full swing in our beautiful mountains just an hour and a half north. Sourwood trees, just like the tulip poplar, brings its own unique characteristics and tasting honey. North Carolina is one of the largest sources of sourwood honey. I am hoping for a late summer honey harvest. Speaking of harvests, I had my first harvest ever this Spring.
"We'll see," I said. Using my tangential extractor, I didn't have a SINGLE BLOWOUT. Check that out, Johnny! :-P The frame above is the closest I came to a blowout, which cracked in the middle. This frame still held together. Notice, though, that the honeycomb is attached on all four sides. Three are the minimum for extracting honey, and four is best. Take it nice and slow, and extract from honeycomb that's had a bit of time to mature, a couple of weeks, and you're fine. Just to test this, I put this cracked frame back in the extractor two more times, and went as fast as I could. NOTHING. All was well, and this frame, along with all of my other wet frames, were given back to the bees to hopefully fill with late spring and early summer honey. All in all I harvested a humble but amazingly delicious harvest of 70 pounds on the dot this year. Most of that, about 3/4ths, I got from Boris, which I'd severely split early in the season. Boris still brought it home. Natasha, not so much. But she still had many frames half-drawn and uncapped of spring honey, so I left those in place and will see when I extract for summer if she can catch up. Still, I gave most of my wet frames back to my big producer this year, my original hive, Boris.
Experience is key, especially your own, I've discovered. This was just one of many gorgeous frames of freshly drawn honeycomb my bees had drawn without any foundation whatsoever. Every frame I replaced during splits were foundationless in the brood boxes. And I checkerboarded foundation frames I'd begun last year with foundationless frames this year. The bees went for making their own wax with no help this year, and partially filled out foundation as the last resort. I even found foundation frames from 2011 still not completely drawn in the brood boxes below, while the empty frames I'd put in in early spring were completely full. But since they were so busy making the beeswax, as I didn't have backup combs to give them from years past, their time and ability to store honey was reduced.
The first weekend in June I had my very first harvest. Many first-year beekeepers don't have a harvest at all, and some second-year beeks as well. One of my mentors had had that very experience. I was truly ecstatic at my good fortune and all of my and the bees' hard work! God bless.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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