By Kathy Cox
Our weather has been a bit crazy, hasn’t it? What does this have to do with swarming? A whole lot, because swarms issue right after some wet cold weather. They issue between 10am and 2pm, usually. They also settle within 50-100 yards of the parent hive. Being in the middle of the swirling mass of buzzy bees is very safe. The bees have no hive to defend and they have eaten up some honey for the trip, which means it is harder to bend their abdomen to get a stinger into you! It is a fascinating sight. The bees land and gather on a tree limb, fence, car or bush. They are waiting to see if the queen is there with them. Did you know they starve her to get her down to a flying weight?? Once they land, they will be there 2 hours or 2 weeks. If you have not caught a swarm, try to hook up with a mentor or a neighborhood captain to watch how it is done. Swarm season should be slowing down now.
Now is the time to prepare for the blackberry flow. I have had reports that the bloom is starting in Renton and West Seattle. This month there can still be swarms, so make sure that the bees have room. This means room in ALL the boxes, not just by adding a honey super. The bees can fill a super in no time, so make sure you have extra equipment on hand. It takes a whole lot of space to store nectar. The bees reduce the moisture content to 17%. Bees move it around in the supers and move some of it down into the brood area. If you are a new beekeeper and feeding your colonies to get the wax drawn out, don’t stop. The bees will stop taking the syrup when they are bringing in sufficient nectar. It is also time that you can change the syrup mixture. To mimic the nectar that the bees are bringing in, you can feed 2:1 sugar syrup. That means twice as much water as sugar. If you have all drawn comb, you can stop feeding for the blackberry flow. This way you are sure to get honey, not honey mixed with sugar syrup. If you sell your honey, you cannot feed during the flow. It is not uncommon for first year beeks to not get honey to harvest, but honey to take the bees thru winter. I tell my students that wax is the first year’s harvest. By all means, stick a finger in the honey and taste it warm from the hive. There is nothing better! Did you know that it takes approximately 10 pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax? Next year, with drawn comb, there will be no wait for the space the bees need to store nectar, or for the queen to lay eggs. If you are lucky enough to get a honey harvest, PSBA rents extractors. Make sure to reserve in time, as there is a high demand for extractors.
A part of the year we all dread is yellow jacket season in July. Make sure to have robbing screens on by the end of the month.