Last year was the first year I had excess honey, so specialty one-pound jars were bought, a label designed, and I started selling honey. Directly to friends, but also through a local store which likes to carry local food. Turns out they'd sold out of what they bought from me, and asked for more today. I have just enough to do another two dozen jars (when they show up from the maker). Maybe I'll expand a bit more this year.
On way to expand an apiary is through splits. I may split my boomer hive tomorrow or Monday. It needs inspecting, at any rate. I don't want to miss swarm cells and have the bees take off on me. It's fully swarm season here, finally.
A friend of mine has a spot in her yard to which bees return yearly. New swarms, sometimes more than one per year, cluster in a peach tree or nearby bush in her yard. There must be a scent left there that tells wandering bees that this is a good spot to swarm to. The first call -- "Swarm near the peach tree again!" came in today while I was learning to stripe a Little League field.
Caterina was the only family member to come to the bees with me, and she would much rather jump on the trampoline than take pictures of her mama hiving a swarm. (Besides, the camera is heavy for her and she sometimes takes more ground than subject.) Some of these pictures were taken one-handed, so sorry for the quality.
The swarm seemed very small when I peeked into the bush. Oh well, I figured, I can always help them grow. But then, I looked more carefully and there were two clusters in the bush. I couldn't tell how large the bottom one was, but the top was about the size of a large grapefruit.
My friend had told me to go ahead and do whatever I needed to get into that area, so I carefully snapped some low-down twigs. It was important to be able to drop the swarm onto something and then retrieve it, since I wasn't going to cut the branch on which they were hanging, and the space was too small to put the hive box under. I wanted to be able to "snap" them onto the top of the hive and then pull it out, like a spatula under an undulating pancake of bees.
With the first shake, more bees than I had expected fell onto the top. I quickly pulled it out and "poured" the bees down into the hive body. I had brought a full box of comb, carefully selected to have good broodnest pattern, so that it would be an easy transition. No box to shake them out of, just installing the hive right onto the stand at home. The sheet is there to wrap up the bees in the hive box. I didn't bring a bottom, and I don't want them flying around after they're hived.
Perhaps I could have waited and they would have moved into the box on their own, but today was a ridiculously busy day. Shaking it would have to be.
I was impressed at just how many there were. Masses of bees, even though the shake had led to quite a few flying around away from the bush. Those eventually re-congregated on the bush in two clusters, just like before.
The following series of woefully uncropped pictures shows how the bees just flow down into the box, finding their way among the frames. I had, by this time, turned the box top over and capped the hive, making it a nice dark safe place for them. I used a cardboard box top to catch and pour subsequent shakes of the bees.
Watch the little twig in the middle of the top of the hive cover. The bees move away from that as they "boil" into the box.
The big kid needs to be taken over to the carpool point at 6am again tomorrow. It's frisbee tournament time, so Eric and I will drop her off and then go over, in the cool hours of sunrise, wrap the bees up in the sheet, and carry them home. By the time it's warm enough to fly, they'll be installed in the hive Ellie is hoping to manage herself. I don't think she wants to keep bees; she wants to sell honey! I can't blame her; it's a sweet end to useful work. But she should have to get up at 5:30 too.
Harvest Monday - April 24, 2107
1 hour ago