June 1st is a pretty good date to pick for the beginning of the main honey flow in our area. There are early nectar sources such as Big Leaf Maples, Dandelions, and fruit trees which come earlier, but the weather is not yet cooperative and the hives are not as developed yet. By June 1st colonies can be approaching maximum strength (if they haven’t swarmed or are beset by disease), and the blackberries are just starting to bloom in earnest. Those pesky and prolific blackberry brambles seem to grow everywhere and flowers are a favorite for the bees,
Now is the time to have bees in the hives. If the colony is full of bees you will get a surplus honey crop, if the colony is struggling at this point the window of opportunity for a honey crop has passed. Beekeepers love this time of year because the bees are happy, for the most part healthy, and they are not aggressive when the honey crop is coming in.
It is impossible to capture the hive activity with a still picture, so I made this very short video to help you get the feel for what a honey flow looks and sounds like. The bees are coming in heavy and nectar is pouring into the colony.
There are a few bees at the entrance, facing inward and fanning like mad. They are part of the air conditioning force, moving air over the fresh nectar to evaporate the water and turn in into honey while cooling the hive. The bees are working hard now because the main honey flow will be over six weeks.
Beekeeping always has it surprises. Few weeks ago, I got a call from friend where I keep my out-of-town hives. Word was that bears had paid a visit and knocked over the bee hives. It was a rainy day. When I arrived the damage was not too extensive. Only the small hive of the two I had there had been knocked over. the two brood boxes stayed glued together with propolis with the boxes upside down with rather unhappy bees peering out between the over turned combs. I turned them over and put them back on their hive stand where, distressed and confused, the field works had gathered in a clump.
What to do? Bears are notorious pests of bee hives and they can do extensive damage. The hives were getting heavy and would be hard to move even if I had wanted to. I decided instead to build an electric fence around them. A run to town, fence posts, wire, insulators, a fence charger and a battery, tools were assembled and with some hacking of the surrounding brush, pounding of posts, and stringing of wire, a fence was constructed. The lore I know about bee fences says that you make a good ground, laying chicken wire on the ground near the wires, and then coat the wire with bacon grease or hang bits of bacon from the wire. The curious bear will lead with his nose to the wire and quickly learn not to come around again.
So far so good. Whether the bear has been back again, I do not know, but the hives are happy and the honey is flowing in. Fingers crossed, it could be a good year.