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Spring Bees / Swarms

June 29, 2016

I managed to get the nucs installed into their nice new hives in the “bee corral” and my second attempt at beekeeping was proceeding exactly according to plan.

Sidebar: My 9 year old next door neighbor has expressed an interest in bees multiple times, so we had ready an appropriately sized jacket/hood combination in hopes of helping him develop that interest when the hives were up and buzzing. He was excited and ready to join me for the first hive inspection @ 7 days. I’ll attest that 9 year old eyeballs are nice to have available when the objective is to confirm the queen in each hive; he spotted the queen on the frame below and pointed her out to me (by the time the picture was taken the shy queen had scooted over the top to the other side of the frame).

A healthy frame of brood

A healthy frame of brood

All. Proceeding. Exactly. According. To. Plan.

Right….

I should know better- a colony of bees is a complex super-organism, “nature” in its purest form and pretty much immune to any human’s attempts at control. I was reminded of this a few days later when I came home one evening to discover a swarm of bees hanging on a hose nozzle I had draped onto a willow branch (to aerate and top off the amphibian pond below).

Spring swarm #1

Spring swarm #1

When bees swarm they are splitting the colony; this is the way bees naturally reproduce in the spring and summer (think reproduction at the level of the super-organism, the colony, and not at the level of individual insects.)   The queen leaves and a good portion of the workers follow; usually they settle and surround the queen in a clump nearby while scouts go off in search of a good place for the new colony to settle and build out a hive. (Note: the bees left behind are already well on their way to raising a replacement queen, so eventually it rebounds.) Usually it is only a matter of hours before the swarm is led by one of the scout bees to their new “home”, so I didn’t want to fool around and loose 1/4 of my bees two weeks into it. Fortunately, a swarm is the most docile collection of bees one will ever see and can be collected easily without fear of a massive stinging attack (I had read this in multiple sources but my first test still made me extremely nervous).

Temporary swarm  hive box

Temporary swarm hive box

I retrieved the cardboard nuc boxes and successfully whacked the branch while holding the box underneath to shake the bees off of the willow and nozzle, then added frames and set up a feeder inside. I had to order or make a bottom board before I could put them into a permanent wooden hive body. This was on a Thursday; I had to leave town for the weekend and when I returned Sunday I started building the required base. As I was almost finished with the first base, I looked up and discovered that a 2nd swarm was in process so I had to scramble and build a second crude base.

Spring swarm #2

Spring swarm #2

The second swarm was under an iron chair against the back fence; I set up a hive box there and then shook them in. (Note to bees: next time please do not swarm to the underside of a cast iron chair; lifting the chair and shaking 5,000 of you off into a box was not a positively memorable experience for me.) The next morning they were still in the hive box and I could see they had started gathering pollen, so all was good. I had moved the first swarm into a permanent wooden hive body as well, so the swarm crisis was over and I now had four hives. Or so I thought…..

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Brent Eamer permalink
    March 23, 2017 6:24 pm

    Checking in from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Hope all is well Bruce

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