All beekeepers experience highs and lows and frustration. It goes with the hobby. For me it’s no exception. I just completed my second hive inspection for the season and saw wide variations in the conditions in the hives.
On the plus side I was able to capture four swarms during May. Actually I captured two swarms and two others captured themselves by occupying vacant equipment. One of the swarms was so strong it is already putting a little honey in a super. You can’t beat that. Also on the plus side is the fact that some hives are putting honey in the supers. During hive inspections I keep a rough count of filled frames of honey and estimate about 9 gallons of honey so far and the flow hasn’t really gotten underway yet.
On the minus side I had four hives that swarmed. In theory the source hives will have a lessened potential for making surplus honey while their populations recover. You also must monitor those hives to make sure that they successfully re-queen themselves. Statistically about 1 in 4 does not successfully re-queen. That fact reinforces the need to continue making hive inspections every other week so you can remedy those hives that do not re-queen before they start having laying workers.
My few replacement packages did not arrive until early May. At my first hive inspection all packages were queenright. However, during the second inspection I noted one new package had lost its queen and had five supercedure cells (also called emergency cells) in process to raise a replacement queen. I hope this is not a repeat of last year when two thirds of my packages superceded in the spring and summer. In fact only one of nine packages from last year has its original queen. That’s not a good commentary on the US queen rearing industry.
Most overwintered hives have successfully turned the corner and growing. However, during May I had two hives that must have lost their queen and slowly dwindled away. Several others have gone queenless, but have supercedure cells. Whether they will recover in time to produce any honey is questionable. In June I will restock these hives with homegrown nucs. The best that can be done now is to start these hives anew to get them ready for next winter.
As most of you know I dabble in queen raising. I was able to raise a few in April, but May was a bust. To make matters worse my Ankle Biter breeder queen died. I have a few of her daughters in nucs and am hoping they successfully mate. I will carry on with raising queens from her daughters. Hopefully with warmer weather the survival rate of the queen cells will improve. I will also be raising a few Russian and Saskatraz queens.
We are now going into June. I see that clover and black locust trees are beginning to bloom. I am ready to add honey supers as the bees bring in the nectar. In my area, June through mid-July provides the majority of the honey flow for the year.
At this point I am behind the curve. The boom in bee populations also results in a boom in varroa. I will need to get out to monitor and control varroa populations. Remember to only use formic acid or oxalic acid treatments while the honey supers are on the hive. Other mite control products will contaminate your honey.