in the Rockies
It must be spring time
in the Rockies. Last week it was T shirt weather, the bees
were house-cleaning and looking for nectar and pollen to feed
their expanding brood nests. At 6:30 AM it was chilly
enough that we were able to relocate a couple of colonies of bees
without smoking them, or even suiting up with veil and gloves.
Just about the time we got the colonies settled in their new homes
it snowed briefly. Then a couple of hours of cool sunshine
allowed the bees to reorient to their new home, resetting their
navigation tools. Sun and snow in a single afternoon makes for
a great spring day in the Rockies.
The bees need little
attention over the winter months. As the days get longer
and warmer however, it's time to get reacquainted with the colonies.
A quick hefting at the rear of the hive gives an indication as
to whether or not the colony has sufficient stores left to make
it to the dandelion bloom which is only a couple of good snow
or spring rains away. Strong and weak colonies are indentified
and a game plan is made as to how to combine and split colonies
in order to balance out the beeyard. Frames of brood and
nurse bees removed from the strong colonies are placed in weaker
colonies to help them get a jump start on the bee year.
This can also be beneficial for strong colonies because if the
colonies go into April too strong, they are more likely to swarm.
While swarming is a natural and necessary part of the life cycle
of the bee colony, as a beekeeper one is always more thrilled
about spotting a swarm when it is certain that it did not emerge
from one's own beeyard. Last spring I did have the ocassion
to observe a swarm emerge from one of our colonies. Fortunately,
I was able to retrieve it - it was placed in an empty hive body
and became a productive new colony for Medovina. About one
week later a friend called and told me about a swarm just a couple
of miles away from Niwot. I loaded up my gear and set out
to capture the swarm. When I arrived on site I was pleased
to see the swarm on a low branch of a shrub. Piece
of cake, I thought. I took my time getting my gear ready,
placing a hive body directly under the swarm. I was just
about finished explaining to a group of onlookers how I was going
to simply shake the branch and drop the swarm into the hive body.
Yes, I was just about finished, but my story was about 3 seconds
too long, for just as I reached for the branch, the bees decided
it was time to relocate. We all watched in awe as the swarm
took to the air in search of a new home ...