Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bee update Saturday June 27

It’s Saturday here, and it’s broiling outside. Wrapped in my protective bee jacket and full gloves makes inspecting bees a pretty sweaty endeavor. But… that being said, last weeks inspection left me with a bit of uncertainty about the future of the hives, so back into the boxes I went.

It can be a little alarming opening the bee boxes. The fingers of my gloves don’t really allow me the finesse to pull out the frames, so I end up jolting the bees, which in turn sends them into the air and swarming around my head. But I’ve taken a lot of stings to the outside of my gloves, so I’m not quite ready to forego them.

In yellow hive, I saw no queen, no evidence of queen (oh dear) and at this point the hive swarmed four weeks ago, so I’m pretty sure they’re getting antsy for a queen. I stole a frame of bee eggs from my split hive (the red box) and added it in. Fingers crossed they’ll right themselves soon. Otherwise they’re doomed and I’ll have to combine them with another hive.

As far as red hive is concerned, they look great. The bees are busy building comb, and while I haven’t seen the queen, there’s plenty of evidence that she’s in there. Two full frames of baby bees, plus two more with bee eggs. *I stole one for yellow hive, so make that one.

In blue hive, I saw the queen. Pretty surprising because I just had a swarm out of that hive a week ago. No sign of larvae or eggs, but definitely saw the queen, so lets just hope she gets mated soon and gets right to work.

Green hive, it looks a little troubling. No sign of brood nor larvae, but there’s a sealed queen cup, so for now the action plan is to let them be(e).

And finally, as for our captured swarm, currently residing in an old nuc box* pressed into service, the bees are building comb. I saw the queen, so I’m happy at least that she’s in there.  Stubborn Boy found an Amish farmer who lives nearby and sells bee equipment. He picked up another hive from the fellow, so it looks like I’ll be back in the bee yard tomorrow morning installing the new hive.  I’m thinking the newbees will from hereout be called orange hive…

*A nuc box (pronounced like nuke) is a box with a tiny 1″ circular opening and a fitted lid. When I first started keeping I had the choice of buying a package of bees or a nuc box, which is like a tiny established community with an already laying queen. Since the prices are only nominally different, I opted for nuc’s to give my bees a jump start.

~swarm

My Blue Hive swarmed.

I had watched Yellow Hive swarm three weeks ago (goodbye bees! ) They had swarmed at the top of a really tall tree, but I still imagined a way to capture them and bring them back.

Swarm up in a tree

Then a week later I watched Green Hive swarm. Now I started to get worried (Why are all my bees swarming? What am I doing wrong? Can I capture them?) and after they swarmed, they were close to the ground and I wanted to get them so badly but we had no place to put them, so Stubborn Boy (aka SB from here out) said “Let it go. We’ll get them next time.” In spite of my protestations that every new colonies of bees we buy is equal to $150 bucks. ~ sigh. There’s no changing his mind once its made up.

So when Blue Hive swarmed on Sunday, I walked into the house with resignation and shared the bad news. Much to my shock, surprise and delight, SB said “Let’s get ’em!)

Yay!

Swarms happen when bees feel over crowded; not enough room to expand the population, not enough space for honey, etc. Also, it’s part of their genetic makeup to want to swarm as it increases the species… swarms leaves behind a skeleton crew of the old population along with a new queen successor.

Swarmed bees are not very aggressive, nor dangerous, or so I’ve been told. Suited up nonetheless, we found the swarm gathered around a little sumac tree.

Fred and bee swarm

SB took all the branches off the top, only leaving the trunk of the tree.

 

The bees were extended about three feet up and down the trunk, and the tree was also swimming amongst tall weeds, so we chopped all those down. Now moment of truth. There were also a pile of swarming bees on the ground under the tree, which posed a little problem because if the queen was THERE, this wasn’t going to work. Well, we took a chance she was on the sumac trunk. So…

With a little nuc box at the ready (stocked with a full frame of honey), I held the top of the sumac tree while SB cut it gently. Then, once loose, I held it over the box and thumped it over the box three times. All the bees tumbled into the box; SB slammed the lid on and we walked away for 15 minutes to let everyone get a hold of themselves. After 15 minutes, we saw all the bees on the ground had climbed to the front of the box, so I knew we’d captured the queen (yay!). We grabbed the box and wheeled it back into the bee yard, and put it in a new location at least 10 feet away from their former hive.

Nuc Box used as swarm capture

I also placed a little mason jar with a floating cork outside for them, in case they got thirsty.  As of 10 hours after the swarm, they seemed to be doing good. I won’t know for sure until Friday if it worked, but fingers crossed, I might have just expanded the bee yard. Either way, it’s pretty fun to try something that you’ve only ever read about in books.