This spring has been a busy one for us - a new shipment of fruit trees arrived and we started two beehives, one installed in a Warre (the red narrower hive) and one in a slightly modified Langstroth (we call it the White House). After much queen drama, we found out during inspection last weekend that the Warre has a laying worker, which very very bad, and the hive will slowly die out.
The White House (Langstroth) on the other hand, is thriving. They've finished drawing comb on 9 out of 10 frames and the first generation of brood has hatched already! We have a really strong queen - you can tell by the solid brood pattern from the picture below. There are very few skipped cells and if you look closely, you can see larvae in one of the uncapped cells, just left of the middle.
The old pear trees were the first to bloom this year, then the old apple trees, and this past weekend, the lilac bush was in full bloom. Standing underneath the tree, you can hear the loud buzzing of all the different types of bees collecting nectar from the flowers. Each of the frames in the Langstroth had a healthy store of pollen and honey, and we even got to take a little bit of honeycomb because they built extra comb onto their roof, which needed to be scraped off. I'm sure I'm being biased when I say that it's the best honey I've ever tasted.
I think it's worth noting here that after 5+ hive inspections, neither of us have been stung once. Honeybees are so gentle, and during our last inspection, I donned shorts (ok, shorteralls) and was fine.
As for the fruit trees, they are doing great in their second year and most have flowered already. The apples are being devoured by vicious caterpillars, and we know Japanese beetles will emerge soon to ravage the other trees, so pest management will be important this summer while the trees are still somewhat young. Michael set up a Japanese beetle trap so hopefully that will help. Anyone know how to keep caterpillars off of your plants without pesticides?
In order to add organic matter to the soil and provide more flowers for the bees, we tilled the orchard and planted peas and oats. They fix nitrogen into the soil, and when sowed, provide really great organic matter and mulch for the trees. Cover crops will be important if we want to keep the orchard organic, since buying organic fertilizer is expensive for 50+ trees! Michael also made a compost drum for household scraps that will help fertilize the berries. In case it's not obvious, I'm trying as much as possible to avoid shoveling manure... ew.
We wrapped up a weekend of work by staking all of the new trees to help them grow straight and support them while their trunks are still little. The screens around the trunks help prevent rodents from chewing the tree bark and girdling the trees during the winter months. It's crazy to think that this hobby has turned into something that requires so many weekends of work, but it's truly so fun and so rewarding already!