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Still Waiting on the Flow

Although I did have some concerns after learning of the swarming hive in New Kent (see previous post), I have been very pleased with the findings in my hives since then. The majority of hives have a very respectable force of walking drones and are building out nicely, in a measured fashion. If weather were not a potential factor, now would be a great time to create a good number of Nuc’s. I have created 13 thus far and expect to create a similar number this weekend.

On the down side, I did find yet another entire out yard with dead-outs (this only amounted to two hives, but it is still notable as I have never lost an entire yard before but have lost two this past Winter.) As stated earlier, I blame this more on me than the weather or the bees. The last 6 months of 2016 were horrendous when it came to other responsibilities in my life.

First a note about the Flow – or the period of time when the blooming plants really put out a ton of nectar for the bees – this is truly the GO time for my bee hives. I have a pretty simple system for determining when the flow is on – take a few tablespoons of raw honey and place it in a bowl on the picnic table in my backyard. If bees arrive soon, the real Flow is not here. If they ignore it (sometimes for days or weeks), the real Flow is here. As of yesterday, the real Flow was not here yet, despite all of the warm weather.

Now, on to the only hive I have (so far) had swarm on me this year. I have found that the colonies in Henrico County are anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks ahead of my hives in Charles City County (maybe the warmth of Richmond puts them ahead?). For years, I would start my Spring inspections in Charles City, seeing that I still had a few weeks to go (before overcrowding/swarm issues) during those inspections, only to find hives that had already swarmed in Henrico once I got there. It finally dawned on me that I needed to START in Henrico, which I have done the last few years with good effect. About a week ago, I was down to my very last hive in Henrico – actually a young hive that I had in my backyard. I pushed a couple of puffs of smoke through the entrance, then opened her up. The VERY second that I pulled off the top, bees starting rolling out the entrance. For about 20 seconds, I was confused about what the heck was happening – then it dawned on me. Looking up, I saw the swarm rolling above me and watched (sadly) as it eventually made its way to the treetops and moved on. There is no way to know for sure, but I have serious doubts that the old queen would fly like that. This made me believe this was a secondary or tertiary cast. The only thing that I noted here was that this was the 4th time this bloodline swarmed early on me. I like the bees (very healthy, put on good honey, etc…), but that is one trait that I am not overly fond of (early swarming).

So, the beekeeping Spring moves onward. As of now, I am in good spirits about the outlook, despite my higher than normal losses this past Winter. It appears that I have suffered 19% hive loss, largely due to my inattention to the bees in the last half of 2016. I am confident that I can recover from this based on what I am seeing in the yards today. But, only time will tell!!!

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