I took a mushroom course once, and the instructor told us that he likes to think of mushrooms as friends: Every year you acquire a few more, and you always recognize your old friends. You don’t have to know every mushroom to safely eat them, but you can always add new friends.
I think of plants like that, too. Here’s my new friend, the Hawthorne tree:
The blossoms really look like apple blossoms, but the leaves were different. This tree is at the Copley Community Orchard (shameless plug: you should join! They need new members. And it’s an awesome way to get out and be active in your community if you live in East Van. I’m not a member, because bees rule my life, but Liam is, and he loves it. And you get fruit. It’s great. Plug complete.)
Very beautiful, and loaded with blossoms. My (or someone else’s ) bees were foraging on it , but I couldn’t get a close enough look to see if they were getting pollen or nectar specifically.
Also, here’s an old friend, Maple blossoms:
Many people are surprised to hear that Maple is a major nectar source, because the flowers are kind of pale green so they aren’t that noticeable, but maple trees get huge, and have tons of blossoms per tree.
Liam spent time yesterday checking through all our city hives, looking for signs of swarm preparation. Last year, I won’t tell you how many swarms we had, but it got to the point in mid-May where we started to dread phone calls coming in from our host yard-owners, because we knew the conversation would begin: “Um…so there’s A LOT of bees in the air right now…”
The novelty of successfully plunking your giant clump of bees into a bucket wears off exceptionally fast, especially when ladders are involved!
Anyway, we’ve been trying to keep ahead of the swarming impulses this year by systematically removing excess brood frames with bees on them, and making them into nucs, mini colonies. Our first round of queens is not quite ready yet, but we make these nucs up queenless, and then take them out to our mating yard in Surrey. The bees make their own queen, and she is able to successfully mate in an area with sufficient drones, in a way that doesn’t really happen in Vancouver proper.
So…bee condos get to stay the weekend in our backyard until Liam moves them out to Surrey on Monday:
That’s our regular size backyard hive on the left, with 4 nucs stacked apartment style on the right.
And this is where Liam will take them:
Ten days ago, we did our first graft of the season (to make new queens). It’s the earliest in the year that we’ve done one. It can be chancy, because you need around 18 degree weather (Celsius) for queens to mate properly. If it’s rainy, or too cold, the queens and drones won’t fly. But, we’re feeling hopeful that the weather a week or so from now will turn out somewhat decent. Fingers crossed!
Queen cells, ready to move into mating hives
We spent the weekend making up little nucs (nucleus colonies) to put our queen cells in. We took a lot of excess bees and brood from our city bee yards, and brought them out to our mating yard in surrey, where we can count on a reasonable concentration of bees for good mating flights. Once in a while, we end up leaving a city hive with a queen that those bees have raised themselves, and that’s fine for a while — it’s a good stopgap measure. But, the concentration of bees in the city is pretty low and haphazard, and we almost always end up replacing that queen later when she turns out to be poorly mated.
Here in Metro Vancouver, the early warmth has meant an early bee season; by all accounts, blooms are around 3 weeks ahead of schedule. The first swarms are taking flight, as bee populations suddenly start to expand! Our bees are collecting nectar from the major dandelion and maple nectar flows happening now, along with other floral sources like apple, blueberry, and cherry. Soon, trees like horse chestnut and black locust will be in full flower–great bee trees! Gardens in the city are blooming, and our bees are loving it!