May in the Apiary


Well, I feel like a duck! Quack, Quack!! Is this non spring getting you down? It seems like there are only 4 days out of 10 that the temp is good for getting in the hives. And, when the sun does shine, there are swarms. If you do get into the hives, make sure to take extra inner covers so you can cover a box, while you are looking through another one. It helps retain the heat and it will keep angry bees from flying up at you when you are moving a box on or off the colony. As for swarms, please answer the calls even if you cannot go get bees. Refer that call to another person on the list. Partner up with another person in your area and share the calls you cannot respond to.

As for swarms, make sure to ask the caller to send you a picture. That way you can tell for sure that they are honey bees and not bumblebees. It also tells you if a nuc box is big enough to hold the swarm. If you get a call and you are a novice, call an experienced beek to get the swarm while you observe. The swarm will go to them, but what you learn will make it possible for you to do it on your own next time.

Now when our weather is not letting us look at our own hives to see if they are in swarm mode, you can tip the second box of the stack and look for peanut cells hanging on the bottom. This is fairly noninvasive and lets you know if things are going well. Remember you need to get into the hives every 7-9 days to check for swarm cells in the spring.

So, if you do find swarm cells you can split the hive. Make sure to put the same number of bees in each hive. Both hives should have capped bees and eggs. One will have the old queen and one will eventually have the queen cell. Check carefully in 4 days to see that they made a cell. If you don’t know where the queen is, if you find eggs that split has the queen. Mark your calendar for a hatch date and wait another week to look for a mated queen. 20% of queens don’t come back. They get eaten by a bird, run into a wire or a car, or get drowned. If the queen is lost, you can combine them back into the original hive by the newspaper method (Google).

The Apiary work parties are going on now. Register on the website to get a spot. There will be no work parties the end of August and the first 2 weeks in September.

If you haven’t introduced yourself to your neighborhood Captain, make sure to do so. You will have someone to call to ask questions. Usually, you need them when you are wondering what to do or how to do it. It is nice to have this resource.

Our next meeting is going to be virtual and in person. Make sure to come to the Beeginner Lesson at 6:30pm. Tracy Klein will have an appropriate topic to what is happening in the bee yard. We will have a speaker and since it is also in person there will be a chance to put faces with names. Our community has been so fractured because of Covid. Some of us are not brave enough to bee there in person, but we can still be there virtually. I’m excited to see how all this will work out.

Here’s hoping we jump right into summer. We need it and so do the bees. Until then, enjoy your bees and read a new book about bees when it rains!

Kathy Cox

Master Beekeeper U of Montana