This season has been a learning curve for me. Not being able to follow the same process as other years made me reevaluate what I do with bees, why I do it, how I do what I do, when I do things for, with and to my bees – you get the thought…..
First, queens were not available as in past years. Maybe the pandemic caused labor problems for the queen producer I use, maybe the weather was an issue, maybe I did not try hard enough, maybe, maybe, but I could not get mid-April queens. So much for standard nuc production plans in April.
I had assembled a lot of frames in late winter. So many that my beekeeping friends suggested I might have been suffering from spring beekeeping fever. That turned out to be my best decision even if it was spring beekeeping fever and not rational decision making.
As a subset of my spring beekeeping frame building fever, I had produced a large (for me) number of plywood nuc boxes that I planned to include with the nucs I was going to produce with the queens that I could not purchase. So, lots of frames and 5 frame nuc boxes and no queens.
In planning for this soon to be massive nuc production, I had boosted my hives with early feeding so by the first of April the hives were jammed with bees ready for splitting with purchased queens. Oops!
As one could easily guess, neither spring nor bees waited for me to resolve my “I’ve always done it that way” mindset and the colonies did what bees have been doing for many million years – they swarmed. No surprise there.
For years I have done the weekend beekeeping thing due to my job requirements. Got to pay for my beekeeping habit somehow. So, the pandemic creates a work from home shift in my work. As it happens, the best place for my home office is the building that also contains my beekeeping workshop. Or possibly, I just made it convenient to be close to my bees and equipment.
So massive swarming is occurring, I am close to the hives with a flexible schedule, an abundance of frames and plywood five frame nuc boxes; what could be better? Nothing I am thinking as I capture swarms and see eggs and small larva start to buildup. Life is great!
The original hives recover from the swarming and new queens are established. She starts laying and with in a few weeks the original hives are back to normal, the swarms are queen right and life in the bee yard is close to perfect. If only it was this easy.
The swarm nucs quickly filled the five frames and run out of space. No problem just move them into a normal hive or use them to boost other hives. Because there has been so any swarms, six in one day and at lease one per day for weeks, I lost count. Moving swarm hives into larger equipment quickly used the extra frames, supers, bottom boards and covers. Added to this was the need to super existing hives which were quickly becoming crowded. I ran out of frames.
Frames and supers are still backordered, a problem I had never experienced until this year. So, I am juggling equipment combining where I can and moving partially drawn frames into hives and fully drawn frames into smaller hives and moved mostly filled supers into swarm hives. Any process I could think up was tried.
From this I learned to be increasingly flexible. Last year’s process just did not work this year. The best lesson is that I did not buy any queens and now have more hives than I have ever had. Once again, the bees taught me better methods of keeping bees and with this development, I now have mostly local queens that are doing very well.
I could still use some frames.