Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Orchard and Honeybees in May

The bees arrived this year on May 1st, I went down to pick up the 2 packages I had ordered from Beez Neez Apiary the first thing in the morning, so I could install them by the early afternoon.  They arrived just as the cherry tree and plum trees started blooming, then over the next two weeks all of our fruit trees bloomed, the pear, apple, crab apple, asian pear, and quince.  The honeybees are the heartbeat of my vegetable garden and small orchard, we have about 30 adult fruit trees, 15 young fruit trees, and many small baby fruit trees.


My Spring walks about the orchard were filled with the delicious smell of fruit blossoms, it carried through the air for many glorious days.  The first couple weeks of May we had the most amazing weather, it was warm with temperatures more like the middle of summer, it was in the 70's and 80's with warm evenings.  My days were spent tending the animals, but the major focus was on amending the vegetable garden soil and planting seed.
Shiro plum tree in bloom, early May

 3lb package of bees

This is a picture right after I installed the 3lb. box of honeybees with a queen.  I waited until the next day to release the queen, and set them up initially with one deep hive box for 10 days, then when I checked them after 10 days it was time to install the second deep hive box.  Now that we're into the third week of May and it's cold and rainy, I'm making sure they have sugar syrup on at all times if it's not flying weather.  New hives without established food reserves can starve in the NW in late May and early June.  If you ever have any dead bees on the entrance you should suspect starvation and put sugar syrup on asap, or you could lose some or all of your new colony.  I know about this from first hand experience, so now I'm diligent about feeding them.  The other thing I made a commitment to do is to check the hives and frames once every week to ten days.  This is to catch them before they need more room, as well as to check for them making queen cells, which must be removed and more space given.  I also want to keep the frames clean, so I'm able to manipulate them.  I check for newly laid eggs to make sure the queen is still laying.  I look at the overall laying pattern and see the pollen reserves and honey reserves.  Being a successful beekeeper means you fuss over your bees faithfully, this will prevent swarms, and keep them alive so they can gather honey and pollen to feed and raise their young, that will in turn give you more workers who will gather more than enough honey for a bountiful harvest.

My first check of  the bees, they were doing a fantastic job on each frame, eggs, larvae, pollen and honey.  I didn't have to feed any sugar syrup the first couple of weeks because of the beautiful weather and abundance of blossoms. I could see them flying in with pollen sacs full and could tell there was a nectar flow going on just by watching the hives. 
During my first check I noticed they had formed some burr comb honey where they weren't suppose to, it was in a spot that I had to remove to be able to manipulate the frames properly.  I ran into the house and got a bowl to save it because they were capping  honey on the comb.  We have been enjoying a special early season honey treat made from dandelion, fruit, and maple blooms, the flavor is out of this world, and is one of the rich rewards of keeping honeybees.  Your own blossom and terroir in an edible form... honey!

Asian pear trees in bloom, early May


Mich Heywood said...

We lost our bees over this last winter and have decided to have a year off. It's been tough beekeeping time with uber wet weather 2012 and this spring is cold & everything is so late.
The only saving grace is we have a lot of honey in store so we won't go short.
I am still growing a big area of borage to help the various wild bees.
Our fruit trees are coming into blossom and there's lots so fingers crossed we could have a fruitful year. :)

Jewel said...

Thanks for sharing Mich, Lucky for you that you still have honey left. The rain and wet weather do make keeping bees hard. I know because I've had my ups and downs with them on those years that the sun doesn't want to come out until July.

Good luck with your fruit this year! Most of my trees look like they're loaded with little tiny fruits, but we'll see what happens after the June drop.