Breakfast with Bees

Once in a moment of inspiration, I decided to buy 32 apple trees. Talk about making work for yourself. Now, every winter, the trees need pruning to ensure a bountiful apple harvest for the gluttonous woodland creatures. Between the racoons, opossums, and deer, we probably salvage half a peck of apples for ourselves, enough for Natalie to make a delicious homemade apple crisp each year to remind me of the foolishness of my moment of inspiration.

“This better taste good,” she says, “how much did you spend on those apple trees again?”

I will be glad when the apple orchard turns seven years old; according to the IRS, I can then discard the receipts and all physical evidence of that moment of inspiration. Thereafter, I can plead amnesia when my wife asks me silly questions about costs. 

The problem with apple trees is that they grow, which means the chore of pruning becomes substantially more labor and time-consuming each year, yet the actual return on investment usually remains the same–nothing. Some years it’s woodland creatures. Other years it’s late freezes or early springs. Unfortunately, some of our apple trees had already started blooming this year when winter finally decided to return this week. Not a pretty site. What was a beautiful apple tree white with blooms now looks like it decided to paint its petals black in goth attire. Thus, the woodland creatures might have to go on a diet this year. 

And the weather is not only rough on blooms but the creatures that pollinate them. I got a call on Tuesday from a local farmer who said he had a big swarm of bees on a post in his shed. “Are you sure they’re honeybees,” I said, “cause it’s too cold for bees to be swarming?”  Turns out he wasn’t kidding. Sure enough, there was a big swarm of bees on a post in his shed. Only problem was they swarmed on the Monday before the cold front blew through, then spent all night huddled and shivering on the post as temps got below freezing. By the time he called me on Tuesday, they seemed half dead and the ones that were alive were just barely moving. 

Sometimes with cold bees, dead is “not quite dead yet.” They may look dead, but if you can get them back in a warm area they will miraculously buzz back to life. I brushed the bees off the post into a closed-up nuc box, took them home and put the box over a vent in our dining room. The next morning, I was eating breakfast with the sound of bees roaring. They were up and at ‘em early, ready to escape their nuc box and forage because it was 72 degrees in our house. Because the weather was calling for another night of below freezing temps, I kept them inside on Wednesday night and then put them in the bee yard today since it has warmed back up.  I put a frame of eggs in there just in case the queen wasn’t among one of the resurrected bees.  

So far, they seem to be flying and doing good–just no thanks to the weather!

11 thoughts on “Breakfast with Bees

    1. Yeah, down in Florida I don’t know if I’d be so gung-ho about saving swarms since yall got africanized bees. Thankfully, we don’t have them up here yet–hopefully, it will stay that way!

  1. Wonderful! Wish I was closer to help on the apple pruning….one tip as the trees grow is to focus on the summer pruning to promote those fruiting spurs – if you don’t do it too early, you’ll often find there’s not much to do in winter. And its much pleasanter pruning in summer weather!

    1. That is a good idea. I’ve neglected summer pruning the last few years which definitely leaves a lot for winter. Definitely need to start doing that!

    1. I’m in zone 7b, so it’s not unusual to see swarms in March down here, but the weather can tough on them cause March could be winter or spring. By mid April down here, usually are main flow has started and bees will start focusing on honey producing so hopefully only a few more weeks of swarm control methods before main flow starts. Everything seems like it’s running two weeks ahead of schedule this year.

      1. Sounds like you’re about a month ahead of us. We’re 6a. And things seem to be ahead here too, except we keep getting those darned cold snaps, which screws up everything (and everyone!).

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