-Posted by Isaac
The bees are back!
Four late nights got them all out of the apples and back home to make some spring honey. I increased the size of the 'good' locations this year, putting upwards of twenty hives in some.
Here's "Johnny's Yard", about three miles away.
A few of the bee yards which were surrounded by nothing but corn fields, I took out altogether. No more 'honey rent' for those folks. Sorry.
Here's "Ann's Yard."
These girls get the royal treatment: an old hog barn.
A good location is one with plenty of forage. Meaning somewhere away from the hundreds of acres of row crops, preferably set-aside land where the bees can find a diverse diet of whatever is blooming. When I brought them out of the orchards 10 days ago, the russian olive was in full bloom.
Most people around here hate this bush because it's so invasive. I love it for obvious reasons: bee food. After the small bit of nectar the bees can gather on dandelions and apples, this is the first real honey flow. Plus you can smell it a mile away. Walk through a pasture filled with it, and it's like you're walking through cotton candy.
Next came my favorite- the black locust trees.
Not a great picture of this grove, but you can see the large white blooms on these somewhat young trees. I've planted some 700 black locust over the last five years. Why? Future honey, of course! This nectar makes the most delicate and beautiful honey. A distinct floral taste.
Shortly after the black locust bloomed, the bush honeysuckle came on strong.
People share the same dislike for this as they do the russian olive. Very invasive plant covering our forest floors. But again, I can find it in my heart to love it at least a couple weeks a year.
With the bees back home and supered up, I found a little time to try something new this year-- bait hives. These are old busted out-of-commission boxes with a couple old frames and a lemongrass 'swarm lure'.
After a good solid afternoon I had 23 swarm catchers ready to go. This is a little like fishing for bees.
Actually, I've fooled around with this a little in the past, but I didn't know what I was doing. Dan Williams, our bee club president gave a talk about catching swarms at the last meeting. I gained several useful pointers. The size of box and internal cavity is important, and so is the height of placement. Oh, and a little something called "queen juice." This is a jar of rubbing alcohol and the bits and pieces of old dead queens. You put a little of the 'juice' on the bait hive frames and as the alcohol evaporates, the scent of queen pheromone remains. What a great idea.
I wouldn't have believed it. Either this is the biggest swarming week of the year, or Dan Williams is simply a genius. I'm inclined to think it's a little of both.