Friday, July 30, 2010

Hive update, 07/30/2010

Not a whole lot to report today. Maddie and I have just finished our hive inspection. Things are progressing well. We have two supers on, the top one is drawn out, and mostly capped (about 4 or 5 fully capped frames, and probably half of the other two are full, just not capped). The bottom super was just put on last week, and the bees are starting to fill it already. LOTS of bees in the box. I actually had a hard time working in the top brood chamber, because it was so crowded. I'm tempted to just leave them to their own devices for the rest of the summer, and just check the supers. I'm afraid I may roll the queen, and either kill her or damage her enough that the bees decide to replace her. It's getting awful late in the season to try requeening.

The tree hive is coming along. I think in the next week or two, I may be able to open it up and let them clean out the tree... I just want to make sure the tree is empty of bees first. There was about 100-150 bees on the screen this last week when I checked (compared to literally several hundred when I started), so I'm thinking they should be just about moved out.....Gonna check the box early next week to see how it's coming along.

The swarm we took a couple weeks ago is doing excellent, according to Brad. He says they are drawing out comb like crazy, and the queen was laying within the first week. It looks like it may have been a good call to try catching that one. I don't think we'll bother with any others this year though, it's getting pretty late, and they won't have time to collect stores and grow their numbers before winter sets in.

Well, next week, I'll look into the tree hive, and I'll update everyone when I'm done.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A swarm in July, not worth a fly?


Brad the clown mentor called yesterday, and told me he got a swarm call. So I loaded up the kids, and drove the 45 minutes to Oil City. Sure enough, there was a swarm up in a cedar tree. Right beside the cedar, stands a maple, with an opening in the bark, down near the ground, with bees coming and going as well, perfect for a trap-out next spring. We're assuming the swarm came from the maple. At any rate, the guy that called us told us the bees have been in the tree for years, despite several efforts on his parts to chemically eradicate them. So we're looking at great genetics, and a locally raised hive, giving the swarm excellent chances. Plus, it was a pretty big cluster.


The swarm was up about 10-15 feet, near the end of a branch. Brad brought a 5 foot folding ladder, having been told it was about 8 feet up. We couldn't reach with his ladder, but luckily, we were able to lean a long extension ladder against the homeowners's truck, and, with Brad holding the bottom, I climbed up, grabbed the limb, and lopped it off. I'd guess that the cluster was about 4 or 5 pounds, about double the size of a package. Then I climbed down, and we shook the bees into the box... sorta....

The bees fell down into the box, just fine, with a good number taking flight. It was pretty amazing to see. I turned to Brad and said, "Not bad, almost looks like we've done this before." The homeowner looked at me with a nervous look on his face and said, "You have, haven't you?!?!" NOPE!!!

Now for the "sorta".... while we were watching, we looked up and saw, right where I cut the branch off, a small cluster of bees gathering. As the minutes ticked by, the cluster got bigger, while the number inside the box got smaller, until, finally, all the bees were out of the box and back in the tree. The cluster looked about twice the size as when we started, though.

OK, time for plan B.... We tossed the box up on Brad's folding ladder, and strapped it to the tree. It's got drawn comb, some honey, and lemongrass oil (a swarm attractant) in it. The bees were definitely showing interest, and we're hoping they will like it enough to move in. We'll check back later in the week to see.

In hindsight, we could have done a few things differently. Next time, we're going to put an excluder under the bottom box, and cover it immediately with a second excluder, as soon as we shake them in, thus keeping the queen in the box. We've also discussed smoking them, though that always seems to make bees take flight, in my experience. We also discussed spraying them with sugar water, much like a new package. Oh well, live and learn, trial and error, whatever you wanna call it.

All in all, the homeowner seemed happy we were even willing to come out. He didn't want to kill the bees, but he didn't want them in his yard, especially right by the driveway. He was astonished by how unconcerned we were with getting stung. He was even more shocked by how brave our kids were, especially when Madeline let a bee crawl onto her hand so she could show people how gentle they are. He is a little more apprehensive, and was more than willing to let us handle the bee duties. Hopefully, we can successfully get the swarm off his property, and in the spring, we can go back and set up a trap-out for the remaining bees.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's been a while....

It's been a few weeks since I've last posted. Thanks for the kick in the pants reminder, Grams. It's just been a busy couple weeks. I have been checking on the bees, pretty regularly, but with 4th of July, work, summer vacation, and house projects, I just haven't gotten to the blog.

First things first: the hive. The hive is doing pretty well. I added the first super a few weeks ago. The bees are hard at work drawing it out. The top deep has a couple frames full of capped honey on the sides. These are going to be left for the bees, to help them make it through the winter. The queen is laying great, and the population is still climbing. It's amazing seeing the amount of bees and how hard they work. I'm seeing bees in my own yard (nearly a mile away from my hive) with increasing frequency, and I don't remember ever seeing one in the past.

Second thing: The Colony. The Colony is still there. I've had to make a few changes. Those girls are pretty smart. They figured out how to get back in the plastic escape cone I had on the screen, so my trapout was set back a little. I consulted with a few experienced beekeepers with trapout experience, and they suggested I make a cone out of screening or hardware cloth. I made that change the next day, and they've been stuck on the outside ever since. It seemed like the population in the tree was steadily declining for a couple weeks. Then, I noticed this last week that there was a HUGE increase in the number of bees INSIDE the hive. At first I freaked out a little, then remembered there were still bees that were hatching inside. I probably saw new bees that were just hatching out. I didn't see any bees going back in anywhere, so I'm pretty sure it's still working. Patience is key with these things.

I opened up the Colony's hivebox, and was pleased to see that the box was packed with bees. I added a second box with foundation above the first box, in order to give them more room. The Colony is pretty stinking big, so I may have to add a third before I get them all out. Moving this thing could turn out to be quite a chore by the time they all move in, draw comb, lay brood, and store all the honey they rob out.

I'm hoping in the next 3 or 4 weeks to get the trapout finished up. I think, depending on how much honey they are able to pull from the hive when I let them rob it out, that I may hold a few frames of capped honey for them, in case they need a little extra to help them over-winter.

I'll try to be a little more diligent about posting from here on out. If I don't, feel free to remind me. Till next time....