It’s July the 1st. Where has 2013 gone? I have done an extremely poor job keeping you up to date with the goings on around here. Swarming was muted a little in May due to cooler than normal temperatures and didn’t really begin in earnest until we had some hot steamy days in June. When I first got into beekeeping I remember hearing this rhyme about, “A swarm in May, is worth a LOAD OF HEY, One in June is worth a Silver Spoon, and One in July not being worth a fly.” Those first couple of years I heard this many times from many different sources. Now I believe just like a lot of repeated B.ovine S.catology this rhyme should be put to bed.
Perhaps in our world of instant gratification a swarm in July can’t give you a honey crop the first year. Asking a first year swarm to give you a crop is asking A LOT no matter what month they are caught in. Like asking a 3 month old to go get a job. I have experimented with extracting honey from first year colonies and have gotten them to produce, often times regretting the loss of many of those colonies.
It has been my experience that even swarms captured in July CAN and WILL overwinter… They may only overwinter in a single deep, but I have seen it happen time and time again as I look back through my records. That second year they have the potential to be just as productive as a colony caught in May the year before. One example of such a colony is 1110. They were trapped on 7/25/11. That’s almost AUGUST! They overwintered that first winter in the single deep. In 2012 – 1110 built up and provided 2 medium supers of honey. I had other colonies with better performance, but how much better can it get????…. A free colony that I didn’t feed or treat producing a honey crop in the second year, I will take it! This year 1110 is among my strongest colonies. They came through the winter with a large active population and needed to be supered early. Currently they are sporting 2 deeps and 2 mediums that will likely be full by August the 1st. 1109 is another example of a colony trapped late in 2011 near the end of July. I got no honey from 1109 in 2012, but they overwintered with no feeding or treatment in my harshest hive site. This one site accounts for 45 percent of my total losses since starting beekeeping. This year as of 6/20/13 they had filled a deep and two mediums after being supered at the end of April. On 6/20/13 I added two more mediums and am fairly certain they will fill them. I will keep you posted.
Many beekeepers I know only seem to be interested in the large primary swarms of May. It is nice to get 4-6 pounds of bees, but there are downsides to these big primary swarms. Primary swarms will usually have the old queen from the hive they have left. How old is that queen? Who knows, she may last several years or……. After a really strong start out of the box they may have a lull late in the season. What if they are forced to attempt supersedure? One thing is for certain the queen from a primary swarm is OLDER than a queen from a secondary or later swarm.
Let’s think about why a trapped swarm from June or July might just be a good thing. Those later swarms are smaller, but there is a good chance that you are going to be getting a virgin or recently mated queen. Open mating while risky is what bees are SUPPOSED TO BE DOING and when you have been doing something for a million years or so why change? Once she is mated you will have a fresh queen ready for 2-3 years of productive egg laying. Sure sometimes later swarms will fail to overwinter, but who hasn’t had swarms caught in April or May fail? If you haven’t just keep bees a couple more years.
So what’s the point of this post? Once May is over, leave those traps out there! If you have equipment enough to house the bees keep trapping at least until the end of July. I put these captured swarms in the top box of a two deeps. The lower box has only foundationless frames allowing the bees to work down naturally. It won’t cost you anything to see if they overwinter and wax moths will be gone soon. Don’t feed them and don’t treat. If they perish they perish, if they don’t they will build up quickly in the Spring.
Quit buying bees, and increase your overwintering success MAKE SOME SWARM TRAPS AND DEPLOY THEM. Those that claim a late swarm isn’t worth a fly can stick it in their eye! Any late swarms interested in a nice place to stay are welcome in my swarm traps. I will give them a chance to make me some honey. I won’t expect much the first year and see if they are survivors. What’s the worst that can happen?
Questions….. / Comments…..