Welcome to the Delights Microfarm & Honey Blog
My original feral swarm colony (2013) decided to requeen itself this
spring. The early signs were that its entrance activity was much
less than the other colonies. Upon checking inside, I noted some new
queen cells and decided to let them do their thing.
Apparently, one of the queens emerged, found some friendly drones, and returned to pick up where the old queen left off. A couple weeks ago, I observed young workers hanging out around the entrance, and activity is definitely picking up now.
Today, I tilted the hive to guestimate its weight, thinking it might need feeding. It was really heavy (2 deeps & a shallow), so instead of feeding them, I will give them another super tomorrow!
Both 2014 colonies are still working hard ... the honey flow continues!
Also, the 2016 swarm is working well into the 2nd deep super. I gave them one of the extracted supers to clean out, but I don't expect to harvest any surplus from them this year.
I "recycled" the other extracted supers back to the hives from whence they came, hoping they might be refilled for a 2nd harvest in August.
If you want some truly delicious, freshly extracted, spring honey, please look for me at the Pulaski Marketplace, Tuesdays, from 4 PM to 8 PM.
My beekeeping experience since the early 1970s, and "conventional wisdom" convinced me to expect 25% to 30% of my hives to perish over the winter, but I was not prepared for all 5 of my colonies to die during the winter of 2012-2013! They surely did not starve (there was plenty of honey in all 5 hives), and no evidence of disease or infestation, according to the lab in Beltsville, MD. Just as I had decided to sell all my bee equipment, a feral swarm moved into one of the failed hives. I thought that might be a "sign", though I'm sure it was pure coincidence.
Now, after the 3rd winter with NO hives lost, I am convinced that the best way to maintain a small beekeeping operation is to use "feral" swarms exclusively. It also seems to be the easiest and least expensive path, because the feral swarms seem to be more hardy and they are FREE.
Then there is the matter of honey production! I don't usually harvest any honey from a new colony the 1st year, but once established, they are extremely productive. For the past three seasons, the established colonies have filled two or threee shallow supers (i.e. 60 to 90 lbs) of surplus honey by the first week in June. In all my prior beekeeping experience, I do not recall ever getting that much honey from a single hive in a season, much less by the 1st week in June!
Swarm control used to be a high priority with purchased bees. Now, I
don't even bother! I figure that if one of my hives swarms (honeybees'
natural procreation mechanism) it's a plus for the environment or some
other beekeeper collecting swarms. Either way, it may even become a
source for future swarms that will wind up in my apiary. The one hive
here that did swarm did so on April 15th 2015 and still produced 200 lbs of
surplus honey for the season!
WOW, these "feral" bees are amazing! I just pulled three supers off the hives that the two swarms from last spring call home. All the frames were fully capped and extraction yielded 101 lbs of summer honey.
If you've been waiting for this darker summer honey, now's the time to call me, or visit me at the Pulaski Marketplace on Tuesday, 4-8PM.
REALLY busy right now, but I want to show you the color of the "premium" spring honey I just extracted.
This honey is even lighter than last year's spring honey, suggesting a higher percentage of black locust nectar. It is extremely sweet, flavorful and aromatic.
Pure locust honey is almost water-white. While this honey is about the color of home-made lemonade, i.e. almost water-white, I still call it "wildfower honey" because I cannot guarantee that no nectar from other sources was collected!
Yesterday, I extracted 100 lbs of this from three shallow supers from "the big hive", and there's more to harvest from the two swarms I caught last year.
I'd like to think that this outstanding production is a result of converting my apiary to "feral" bees (swarms lured into empty hives with a spritz of lemongrass oil), but today I helped a neighbor harvest 100 lbs of similar looking honey from three supers off their hive of purchased bees (albeit requeened last year with a locally bred queen).
The only logical conclusions I can draw are that: 1) this year's locust bloom is better than last year's, and 2) that our local bees are very happy!
FWIW, some of the outfits that had locust honey or locust & apple blossom honey for sale last year recently updated their websites lamenting that their 2015 locust honey harvest was "a bust". That certainly was NOT the case in Radford!
The garden is off to a great start, with tomatoes, cabbage & squash in
the raised beds:
and potatoes, squash & bush beans in the lower terrace. The asparagus bed has been producing several pounds a week for a while, and I just planted 10 more crowns in the hope of increasing production enough to freeze a bunch in a few years.
The fruit trees are coming along, and the prune plum has a good set on it for the first time.
Dianna has spent a lot of time and effort making the front yard landscaping look like a House & Garden showplace!
This year, we are experimenting with container gardening of tomatoes, carrots, beets, swiss chard, "bush" zucchini and pole beans:
Although no one has moved into the swarm traps yet, there's still time ('til the end of June). The three (feral) hives all survived the winter and have been working overtime since early March. Despite having swarmed on April 15th, the "big hive" from last year has already put away a huge surplus, approaching the "dangerously tall" stage once again.
I plan to extract some spring honey in the next few days.
Today, four helpers from the VT "Big Event" (see: http://vtbigevent.org/) program came by to help with some garden chores. They arrived on time, worked hard, were very courteous, enthusiastic about the (vegetable) garden & chickens, and interested enough in my "feral" bee hives (which ALL survived the winter, BTW) to stand by fearlessly, without "protection"**, and even take some pictures as I reorganized the hive bodies a bit. No worries, these "feral" bees are really gentle and, as it was sunny, 70F, with an early honey flow just starting, I might not have even needed to smoke them.
While they were stuffing the raspberry & blackberry prunings into the burn-barrel, installing "weed cloth" on the upper garden's raised beds & it covering with a thick mulch of aged wood chips, I was cleaning up the lower garden (pulling up tomato stakes, cutting/removing plant debris, and harvesting a bunch of plump asparagus.
The VT "Big Event" seemed to be better organized this year, and the weather cooperated more than some years in the past. I was very happy to have their help, and impressed with the quality of their work. If you have not availed yourself of this great resource before, be sure to check it out for next spring!
** As a common-sense precaution, I had advised the "Big Event" organizers
that I had some bee hives, and whoever was assigned to work here should
NOT be allergic to bee stings!
Seems like "daylight savings time" triggered an end to the series cold snaps. Right now it's 64 degrees, "da boidies" are all over the place, and the bees are out looking for nectar and pollen: