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.
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.
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!
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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