It’s only mid-May, but the blackberries are blooming, a whole month early, like every other flowering thing in our area.
All of my walks and runs around the neighborhood have become bee-scouting adventures, and I like discovering where they may be. It won’t be a mystery where they are for the next few weeks; there are acres of blooming blackberries less than a half-mile from our house, and I spotted a lot of ladies there today. It makes my heart sing!
Unfortunately, the early bloom isn’t so great for our chances of a honey crop this year, as our newly-installed bees have’t had enough time to build up their population or draw out a lot of honeycomb yet, so the workforce is currently small. Since we installed our boxed bees just 3 weeks ago, the first of the babies are just emerging now (they take around 21 days from egg to bee.) At least they’ll have a great honey flow to fuel their efforts, but I doubt they’ll bring home enough for a surplus for the humans. At this point, though, I’m really just rooting for them to build up strong enough to survive the winter. But a taste of honey would be a sweet bonus.
The past few weeks have been consumed with binging on natural beeking books, vidoes, lectures, and websites. If I knew three weeks ago what I know now, I would have made a different start. Our bees came from a commercial breeding facility in California. As it turns out, starting with local mutt bees from hives that have survived Seattle winters would probably have given us a better chance at strong stock that will make it here. And if we’d started with “nuc” hives (which include frames of bees, larvae, and honey) rather than boxes of just mature bees and a queen, we wouldn’t have had a three week perod of no new bees being born, which would have been a three-week head start. It turns out we could have used that head start with this early blackberry season. Still, it is completely fascinating watching the bees build a home from scratch. What an amazing thing to witness!
I still haven’t been stung, though I’m mostly working the bees with bare hands. I’m starting to learn to read them and keep them gentle. They are good-natured girls, but the guards definitely can bring some attitude. Not that I blame them. Having irritated guards flying at my face has taught me that it’s probably wise to always wear a veil when opening the hive. Better: learning how to work with the bees without antagonizing them. It pains me every time I kill one and I’m trying with all of my patience to not hurt even one if I can possibly help it. It’s hard to move slowly when the girls start to get riled up, though.