Beekeeper’s Record & Journal
The following was reprinted with the permission of the estate of Richard Taylor.
The material is from the book, “Beekeeper’s Record & Journal”, text by Richard Taylor, and designed and illustrated by Cynthia Diamond. This book (among other items) was donated to the youth during the 2009 IHPA annual meeting in October, 2009, at the Best Western Regency Inn in Marshalltown. After the meeting, this book was left behind and is now the property of the Iowa Honey Producers Association, Historian.
I have enjoyed reading it, and thought the membership would also. As stated by Kim Flottum, Editor of the Bee Culture, “We have a Gem!”
Peggy Ennis, IHPA Historian
May is the month of dandelions. It is also the month for fruit blooms of every kind, but this hasn’t the same meaning to beekeepers as the dandelions. Fruit trees grow mostly by human design, while the dandelions are a singular gift of nature. The fruit blooms, too, can be a deadly trap for the bees, when careless or ignorant orchardists pick the time of bloom to spread insecticides on them, whereas the offerings of the dandelions are undefiled. It is hard to see how anyone can see acres of dandelions, like bright scattered gold pieced against the fresh green of new grass, and think of them as weeds. No beekeeper can. To be sure our reward from the dandelions is indirect. We seldom taste the honey, because this month the brood is so plentiful in the hives that every drop is needed for the “spring buildup,” as all beekeepers know it. But the reward is nevertheless great, for the bees nourished on this pollen and honey will gather the honey that ends up on our tables.
May, in the northern latitudes, is when the conditions for swarming are established. A colony cannot simply grow and grow with no impulse to split. Now is when a beekeeper may feel a certain desperation. But don’t try to frustrate and inhibit the bees’ inclination to swarm. You will only find yourself doing battle with them, instead of husbanding them. The swarming of bees is as natural as the nesting of birds, or the spinning of spiders. Therefore it should be controlled, and turned to your advantage, rather than resisted. And May, if possible before any queen cells appear, is the time to act. If you simply divide your strong colonies, and give a new queen to the division, leaving the old queen with the parent hive on the original stand, you will in effect have produced a swarm at your own convenience. The division or ‘split” can be set right on top of the parent colony, facing backwards, if that is easier; it saves on the use of extra equipment. And if you use a double screen between the two colonies they will share each other’s warmth, but without danger of the two queens meeting. Then later, when the swarming season is past, you can reunite the two colonies, by just removing the double screen or whatever barrier you used, or you can set the new colony off onto a stand of its own perhaps to reunite them in the fall. Either way, you have kept all your bees where they belong, instead of letting them fly off to hollow trees, and the like where they would be of little use to anyone.
Or again, if you go through your strongest colonies and remove three or more combs of mostly sealed brood from each, together with the adhering bees but without the queen, and make up nucleus colonies with these, introducing young laying queens to each such nuc, you will rarely see any swarms. If the combs removed are replaced with foundation, rather than with comb, so much the better, for the urge to swarm is partly the urge to build combs. The nucs that result from this simple procedure can be sold at nice prices, or used by you to start new apiaries with the minimum cost.
All effective swarm control measures are variations upon the basic idea of splitting. What is important is that these simple steps be taken early, not after the hives are loaded with queen cells. The prevention of swarming should really be aimed at the prevention of queen cells, because once those appear in a colony then the task becomes, to say the least, somewhat more difficult.
Richard Taylor was born 1919 and passed away October 30, 2003 in New York. He earned his PhD at Brown University and taught principally at Brown University, Columbia, and University of Rochester. He was an American Philosopher, renowned for his dry wit and his contributions to Metaphysics. Although it is well known he was a philosopher – he was far better known as a beekeeper. It is often said – “I have never met a beekeeper who has not heard of Richard Taylor”. He owned 300 hives and from 1970 produced mostly comb honey. His significant contributions to beekeeping are - authoring many books on beekeeping - among these are the two; “The comb Honey Book” and “The Joys of Beekeeping”, and regularly writing articles for bee journals.
His near legendary honey stand at the roadside in front of his country home operated on the honor system, secured only by gentle solicitations to honesty posted on its walls.
To “bee” continued next month……