The big rage in beekeeping is The Flow Hive--get "honey on tap!" The Australian inventors raised something like $12 million through crowdfunding to launch their innovation and market it. No fear of undercapitilization anymore They have a very active Facebook group and it continues to attract people interested in at least experimenting with a system that lets you "extract" using mechanical frames that convert the surplus honey cells into channels that drain directly into a jar. There are a whole lot of pros and cons I could detail, but I don't have that kind of time this afternoon. In short, I don't think it's a worthless novelty, but it's also not going to be an innovation that radically impacts large-scale beekeeping.
Nonetheless, it is nifty to see that one of my nuc buyers loaded their four frames of bees into a Flow Hive and hauled it away. I hope their expensive foray into the latest and greatest in beekeeping innovation proves fruitful! It will be interesting to see if more of our customers embrace the same system!
There is a giant flow happening during the past several days. I know black locust just opened three days ago, and a tiny bit of clover is blooming too. I suspect something else is happening as well, but the brood boxes are getting mighty heavy. I'm going around as quickly as possible with honey supers. Here is one of the first hives storing in the surplus boxes that I added several days ago. This particular hive has two honey boxes in freshly-filled condition:
I will never tire of sharing a picture of the first honey of the year, but I've also learned not to get too excited about the late May flow. While it can be wonderful and widespread, it usually turns out localized and shortened by rain. I nonetheless, very cautiously, hope that this year will be a bounteous exception!
I'm at the point of year where the nuc yards grow very quickly. I've stopped splitting for new hives and start loading the nucs for sale and raising queens. They were getting a little light for about ten days, and I was about to go and feed them. Then the nectar flows returned. Hopefully we can dodge the 50-50 rain chances that are in the forecast--at least some of them. The ground is getting pretty dry, but I really don't want to see the bees trapped inside for several days.
Anyway, here is part of a nuc yard stretching into the sunset a couple of evenings past. The scene caught my eye because of the lowering sun and a mist rising over the creek that is just beyond the line of plants that sits in front of the hives. If only the creek could have made the picture, but alas, there is no company helicopter to enable an aerial shot on short notice! There's no photography award in order, but it was pretty at the time
I look forward to the day when this guy might help me with some of the nuc yard duties! He sure loves the outdoors and doing farm work at this age. We just celebrated his second birthday!
It takes us about a month to get through all of our bees during splitting season. Around April 15, there's really no problem with having the winter wraps still on the hive. Warm weather in May, however, can make the hive decidedly stifling when the winter insulation is still attached. The image below shows a bee beard that would be pretty excessive even during the July/August peak of summer heat. Lots of new bees, warm weather, and winter insulation can keep the hive confines a little toastier than we desire.
I'm just about done splitting, thankfully. I'm looking forward to getting the honey supers out en masse.
On a separate note, a fellow about a mile down the road called me over to retrieve a swarm that was on the ground. It had moved around his property for several days before winding up in a pile of mulch. I presume the queen is dead or injured--honeybees don't like to cluster on the ground. Anyway, I got most of them into the box and I'll let everyone know the outcome. Here is the moment after I placed a hive in front of them. They quickly determined that my box of frames constituted a far superior situation for their living environment.
Good news. I just pulled the happy pollinators out of Wilson's Orchard near Iowa City, and the bees look surprisingly well-fed. There were a number of cool rainy days during the two-week bloom, so I had steeled myself for unpleasantly light hives at pickup. They must have made the most of their warmer windows of opportunity. The hives weren't light at all.
Here is one of the strongest hives laced with apple nectar:
In other happy news, I'm pretty much done with the garage project. I've stalled at staining the window and door trim, but we're thoroughly painted, insulated, and electrified. Many winters of woodworking in a warm environment await!
A couple of "before" pictures are shown in the spring projects post.