Swarm Season is On!

What Flowers Are You Seeing?

What are you seeing outside your hives? What are you seeing in the plants and trees? Most of us are in Bethesda, Chevy Chase or Northwest DC. I see forsythia in bloom. Our weeping cherry tree has bloomed and is losing its petals. My young tulip poplar and cucumber magnolia are budding and I expect to see flowers soon. In the neighborhood I see magnolias and cherry trees and maybe dogwoods (I am not great at identifying trees yet … this is a skill I need to hone).

I see dandelions blooming. The daffodils are in full bloom. I have a shady lot, everything happens later in my yard than everywhere else. The chickweed is done, I think … the purple deadnettle and henbit. Weeds to some, food for your bees, and quite pretty.

We need to start thinking about our beekeeping actions based on the bees’ calendar, which is based on what the plants are doing. They don’t care if they started to swarm last year in mid-April. It has been a very mid winter and everything is going crazy.

Ryan, who is in Atlanta, is my early warning radar. He says that everything started happening three weeks early down there. I think that applies to us too.

What Are You Seeing Outside Your Hives?

A lot of pollen going in. A lot of bees coming out. Some of us are seeing bearding at night (those girls need space now!).

What Am I Seeing Inside My Hives?

I am seeing “charged” queen cups?  I got out to see Livingstone and Matthew Henson on Sunday. It was windy and cool and although the bees were foraging, there were plenty at home to get defensive on me. I see queen cups everywhere, but what you want to do is check if they are “charged.” If they contain royal jelly or an egg, they are now called queen cells.

Keep an eye on the life cycle and the calendar. If you have frames of wall-to-wall capped brood, you will have many bees emerging in less than 11 days. You can approximate how old capped brood is by how dark the cappings are.

Give Your Girls Some Space!

However you plan to mitigate swarming, now is the time to be doing it. Also, we are very close to nectar flow … it’s coming in, they are storing it. Our queens, especially the ones with Italian tendencies, are laying eggs like crazy. If things get too crowded, that is a swarming trigger.

If you don’t have supers at the ready, get some. I will be building boxes all afternoon. If I can’t paint them, tough … they need to go on, or be ready to go on.

For an established hive that is mostly full, you can throw two supers of undrawn foundation. They will start to draw it out as the nectar comes in to make space for it. If you have fully drawn comb that is starting to get filled with nectar (not brood) in a lower box, you can move it up into the super with undrawn comb and it will bring your girls up top to draw out the comb. If you are running out of space and you don’t have frames with foundation ready, you can extract and return the wet frames to the hive. This presumes that you own or have access to a friend’s extractor.

I’ve Been Slimed!

I pulled an IPM board out of Livingstone and found hundreds or thousands of tiny creepy-crawly larvae. Small hive beetles (SHB). I messed up this spring and put pollen substitute on the top bars of the frames with the fondant for emergency feeding. Too much. With the exception of a brand new hive, I don’t think  we need to give pollen to our hives … this area is lousy with pollen. Pollen patties and pollen substitute attract SHB inside your hive. I hope that the bees have this under control. I seem to recall that one SHB can lay 40,000 eggs, which will defecate in the honey and slime everything. Even if you don’t plan to eat the honey, the bees won’t like it either.

That is the big caveat with giving too many boxes when there are not enough bees to keep the SHB in check.

I plan to order beneficial nematodes in large quantities for my apiaries.  If  those larvae get to soft ground, they will burrow in and become adults and start over again. I get mine from Southeastern Insectaries.


Warning : This pages are part of my ‘Bee Babble’ series. The content is intended for a specific audience and is subject to my disclaimer

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