Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Swarm in May

There's an 0ld beekeeping poem that says:

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay

A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon

A swarm in July ain't worth a fly
But why do they say that?

If spring heats up quickly the bees can get pretty warm in their hives and start to think about swarming early.
Your mated queen will leave the hive and take about half the hive with her.
The bees left behind will make a new queen.

Everything would be fine for the bees left behind except that the spring drones are too young and haven't had enough time yet for their sperm to mature.
They'll mate with the new queen but their immature sperm, won't last the queen for her lifetime.
The hive is then likely to fail that fall or the following spring. Hence, the load of hay. The swarm might be of some worth but not so much.

A swarm in June warrants a silver spoon because seasonal temperatures are more stable and the drones have had time to mature.
There's lots of time in the season for the new hive to establish itself and create stores for winter.
A swarm in July isn't worth much because it's so late in the year that the swarm isn't able to establish themselves in a new hive and get enough honey stored to survive the winter.

[These are photos of 2 swarms from last year at my friend Henry's place].

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