At the end of August, the hives seemed to be doing well considering the long, hot summer dearth this year. Nectar flowed super early and fast in the spring, and seemed to quickly shut down. All six hives did well on their spring stores, minus the harvest I took. None starved. It was time to start mixing syrup and feed, to stimulate egg laying by the queen and get the hives back up to strength in time to prep for winter. Beekeeping is always about 3 to 4 months from now, unless you've screwed up and an emergency situation has developed, I've determined.
Traffic, while not great, was steady. Every time I said, "Natasha is dying. She's not going to make it. There's no traffic!" I'd open up the hive to see a steady number of bees, albeit in declining summer numbers. Same for Boris. The queens shut down egg laying when there isn't enough nectar to go around. Still, traffic was far less than what the nucs were showing me. But, these two hives have queens that are Russians. The nucs are Russian-local hybrids mixes, so maybe that has something to do with it.
My nucs were doing just fine over the summer. Hive Bullwinkle, at left, was really doing well despite the dearth. Hive Sherman, at middle, was doing well, and the little itty bitty feral nuc I got from Cory and Nolan's house was steadily increasing its numbers from that single frame of bees and queen cell I'd taken home. I started feeding these three in July with the Ziplocl baggy feeding method. I installed reducers in the front so the nucs could defend themselves from robbing. This summer dearth resulted in a lot of robbing that my fellow beekeepers experienced. Bullwinkle was bearding this day. Both it and Sherman had screened bottoms on most of the summer, and they bearded faster than the solid bottomed Hive Peabody at right.
This was just super cool. Bullwinkle is bearding in drips and drabs, almost forming long queen cell shapes of nothing but bees in the afternoon.
A newbee and friend (Hey, Keith!) decided that after a single year of beekeeping he had to give it up for the next few years, though I tried to talk him out of it many times. I met Keith at one of the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association meetings this spring. He had an apiary at a friend's yard many miles away and couldn't check his hive often. He'd bought tons of equipment, including drawn comb, and enjoyed a great spring honey harvest this year, right off the bat. But, not paying attention to the apiary and inspecting quite often enough, wax moths began to get the better of the hive, and the bees absconded. He cleaned up what was left and took it home. And he bequeathed all of the equipment to me. It was a blessing, as I still needed to build supers and frames and was trying to figure out when I could buy the materials and when I could put it all together. Keith's gift was a major relief. When I got home I put all the equipment underneath the apple tree and let the bees clean out the combs and woodenware. In no time at all it was a cloud of bees, and the materials were cleaned spic and span in a couple of hours. August contained happy surprises!
So Yvonne surprises me one day with this most awesome sign for T's Bees Honey. It now hangs in our carport, so anyone approaching the apiary sees this kickass sign made out of various license plate parts, suspended on aged wood. How cool is that?!
I had a TON of orders. In fact, I sold out of T's Bee's Spring 2012 Honey. It was a wonderful, wonderful surprise to the end of my first beekeeping year with the 2012 harvest. Some folks needed to drop by the house and pick up their honey. I took one of our garden baskets and added some newspaper and a personal note, along with our trusty border terrier mix Olive (seen in the window) as gaurd, and voila, pickup system now in effect.
I had a couple of frames that were heavy with uncapped nectar and needed robbing out. I put them under the apple tree, and holy moley, the bees wasted no time in heading straight for the frames. It was amazing to see the constant cloud of bees from the six colonies to the apple tree. Bumble bees and wasps also joined in on the fun. I was amazed at their efficiency, but a bit bummed at how ragged the combs were after they were finished. They truly ripped those combs to pieces which fell out as I picked up the frames. In the future, I'll put the wet frames or any that need cleaning out on top of a hive with a solid inner cover inbetween.
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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