Thursday, May 5, 2016

Blackberries Are Starting

I knew the blackberry bloom was going to be early this year, but I wasn't thinking it would happen the first week of May!  Everything is early again this year, and while last year we were an impressive 2-3 weeks early we've blown that record away with them being 4-5 weeks early.  Usually blackberries start about the second week in June and from what I can tell all the other typical June flowers are coming out now as well.  

So why does it sound like I'm concerned?  Last year this setup left us with a LONG dry summer which created weak hives and great conditions for disease to flourish.

Blackberry bloom

The other benchmark of both the maple and blackberry flows are that they align with swarm cycles.  I've heard of several swarms already this season due to the early maples and would expect without the normal spring lull before blackberries the swarm that urge will be compounded in the next few weeks.  If you want to catch them before they do something you really need to be in there every 7-10 days right now.

Here a swarm in a thorny bush.  Ouch and not from stingers!

The queen is in the box and everyone is slowly moving in.

This is the buildup from the swarm pictured above after about 12 days.  The gap you see was left by the pollen/nectar they placed around the initial broodnest as the queen started laying eggs.  Not to be slowed down she skipped over the cells that weren't empty and kept laying.  Now that the food is used up from feeding the brood there is a hole or wave in the pattern.  As those cells are cleaned up she will go back and fill them in.

This comb is more of the text book look for how honey, pollen and brood should lay out on a comb.  Keep in mind this is a flipped view and the comb is actually upside down in the photo.

The below are couple photos from the overwintered Quickdraw hive.

You are seeing big drone cells at the bottom of a comb here.  Notice how they point upwards and not down like a queen cell would.  I get a lot of questions from new beekeepers that see these and think queen cells because they are big and at the bottom of the frame.  Queen cells always point downward and would be even bigger than these!

Some nice mixed pollen stores are building up.  I don't usually see them store pollen in drone sized cells and you can see the bigger cells on the right have nectar or drones.  I often see them when they are trying to box the queen into a smaller broodnest area.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff