I was invited to speak at the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association in Skippack, Pennsylvania about acquiring swarms. It was my first ever PowerPoint presentation in front of an unfamiliar crowd. I was very nervous for weeks before the event, but after a few minutes, I calmed down and felt pretty good about it afterwards. The next day, an attendee sent me links to videos of myself on YouTube. I didn’t even know anyone was filming! The angle and resolution of the video are a little off at times, but it’s the only copy I know of right now. So here I am, in all my glory:
OH MY GOODNESS! (Full disclosure: These are not my pictures.) I had no idea that artichokes looked so beautiful when left to bloom. It is obvious why honeybees seem to love them. Artichokes are in the same family as thistle, so I assume their pollen and nectar supply is similar, as in very good. Now I just have to get a hold of some seeds or young plants. Has anyone ever let artichokes flower before?
It’s looking like I might have a banner year as far as surviving colonies goes, even with the polar vortex we just had. I won’t have as much equipment to devote to swarm traps, so I’m making a bunch of fiber pot traps. I already know they work really well, but the ones available in the catalogs are pretty expensive.
A great blog post about my favorite plants.
Every morning that I have off from work, I walk around the yard and check the entrances of all of my colonies. This is what I like to see. These little piles of dead bees tell me that my colonies are still alive. I use a twig to swipe them all away while trying not to get chased away. Some call this hygienic behavior, but it isn’t. This is basic housekeeping which all bees should do. If I don’t see these little piles, there might be a problem. So far though, I have live bees in all of my twenty-something hives. It seems that my decision to requeen (almost) all of my colonies with daughters of my survivors, and heavy late-season feeding has paid off thus far.
What does it mean to be a successful beekeeper? People have many opinions of what determines success to them. To some, if you do not keep a certain number of colonies, make a certain amount of money, or achieve an outdated survival rate, you are just playing around (unsuccessfully). Here are some of the questions I ask myself.
Do you keep bees every season and have an absolute ball doing it? Yes.
Do you lay out a large amount of money every year to keep bees? No. Practically no money, except for equipment (which everyone needs).
Do you contribute negatively to the overall gene pool of honeybees by propping up unfit colonies? No.
Do you earn some income from your bees? I do. Not much, but enough to cover most of my equipment.
Are you constantly learning more each season by studying your bees? Yes. And by learning from other people.
Am I off base with this? Are there any other questions I should be asking myself? I may not meet the criteria others set to be considered successful, but if all the fun I have messing with bees is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.