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!
So far I've collected 8 swarms this spring (one of them twice). Honey bees have kept me running, with a big smile the whole time. After the excitement of my first swarm, I heard a commotion from my bedroom window one morning, went out to the apiary to discover another swarm had settled on a blueberry bush outside the hives. I collected this one in a temporary box, but while inspecting another hive it absconded. Lesson learned: once in a temporary hive, move them to their new digs as soon as possible.
My friend George came over to buy some queenless nucs. My hives are boiling over, so it was easy to accommodate. In this hive there was no brood but plenty of capped queen cells. This one had already swarmed out on me, yet still it was boiling over with bees.
Then a third swarm happened. I grabbed a metal pan and sieve that I use for wax processing and began tanging away. I directed this lovely 6-pounder to a holly bush. All told I've now tanged 4 swarms onto low bushes in my backyard, keeping them out of the trees. I'm a believer!
It was a beauty, and a joy to collect and has settled back in nicely in my apiary.
I've learned the joys of having extra nuc boxes not only around, but ready to go, as well as extra frames and foundation. Quickly I ran out. Thanks to my dear friend and fellow beekeeper Rod, I was able to keep up with all of these swarms and hive them. Saving the honey bees is a wonderful, miraculous thing. But you have to be prepared. I was more successful over-wintering my bees than even I'd anticipated, with 8 of 9 not only making it but expanding over winter. Each season I think I'm prepared and find myself making a list of things I'll do better next winter!
The fence became a popular swarm spot. I think it's the leftover pheromones from the first swarm, along with sugar water and the yellow bells that make it a popular stop. I have that Tibetan singing bowl, a sheet and an extra box ready to go. The swarm collected in this box absconded out of the box the next morning, then swarmed back onto the fence, then all at once descended onto and into another hive that had a virgin queen in it! It was the most bizarre and crazy thing I've seen to date from my honey bees.
Here is that virgin queen, freshly hatched out. I saw an open queen cell then noticed her walking on my hand and soon onto my hive tool. I gently put her back inside as she'd just emerged. I don't know if she made it when the other swarm took over this box for two days, but I'm hopeful. Time will tell.
Here's the other swarm marching in after they descended onto this little nuc box for a couple of days.
A huge 8-pound swarm was collected on the bushes behind my apiary. Then the next day I snagged this 5-pounder off my neighbor's bushes. This is a borrowed nuc box, stand with slatted rack and feeder that Rod loaned me, being a hero to the honey bee in the process. Thank you, Rod!!! I've also found that using a sheet helps speed up a swarm in finding their way to the hive box, instead of getting lost among all the grass blades, twigs and such.
This is the front of the hive I made a queenless nuc out of that had tons of swarm cells on it. One day it seemed every bee came outside. I thought for sure it was another swarm. But no, they went back inside. I think this may have been a send-off party for a virgin queen making her first orientation or mating flight. What an amazing spring this has been and it just started!
A day later I greeted the day watching swarm #8 emanate out of the virgin queen nuc box it had over-taken a couple days prior. My eye saw her in the morning sun, that big beautiful amber queen had landed on the bushes. I quickly snagged her with my queen catcher. It pays to have your equipment at the ready! I sprayed her and her attendants a little with sugar water.
I gently placed her inside by opening the clip above a frame and allowing her to exit and enter the hive. This swarm was HUGE. They're all safely settled back into my apiary. Yes, I've been making splits the hard way this spring, by chasing swarms all over the place. Next year I'll do a better job by checker-boarding all of my hives with empty frames and foundation BEFORE they swarm out.
I put an old political sign down as a ramp from the bush to the entrance of the hive where the queen was housed. In they walked. But this swarm was so large I had to scoop 6 or 7 times off the bushes with a cut-off ice tea jug top and handle and dump the bees onto the landing board. In all it took about 2 hours before the entire swarm was housed and walked back to the apiary.
Recently I was laid off from my corporate job, which is scary. But instead of being stuck inside a windowless, dank grey cubicle I've been allowed to be a part of daily miracles from these bountiful honey bees this spring. I'm selling nucs this year, and apparently more than I'd initially anticipated. And wow, am I having fun learning what God and the honey bees have in store for me. I'm just taking it all one swarm and day at a time.
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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