Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fast forward--SWARMS

I haven't posted in months.  Guess I'll have to give the quick versions of  happenings here on the farmish.  It has been an extra busy summer around here.

Those bees I just got, last post, well, in June--swarmed on August 13th.  Just before that day, it looked like the hive was doing fabulously well, so I put on the super. The hive body was full of brood and honey and pollen. I was actually excited that I would reap some honey my first year. All my beekeeping books say "rest assured" your new hive with a young queen will not swarm your first year. Yet, they did. It was magnificent as tens of thousands of bees poured from the hive and went straight up 75 feet into this red maple tree.   My first year as a beekeeper has taught me more than I could have hoped for. haha.  Lucky me. And up in that tree they clustered.  Out of reach.  Frantic calls around to see if someone had a way to entice them into a catch box, but, No.  So, the next day they flew off to their new home. 



First swarm is up in the top of this tree, just left of center.  See the very dark dot?
Closer view of swarm

Then, one week later, we checked the hive and found a new queen being tended to by her loving sisters. Lots of drone cells. I hoped all would go well for the bee mating and we would get some brood going because it looked quite empty in there. All the honey was gone with the swarm. So I put on a feeder and made something from the Dummy's book made of shortening, sugar, honey and mineral salts. Kind of a sugar hamburger. I'd like to know if anyone else has used this. Anybody? The bees ate it up and I have more that I put in the freezer. Apparently, it is a good measure to keep varoa mites off the bees as well as feed them. Comments?
I find I can't handle the camera and the sticky frames at the same time so my picture taking is not so good. But it was fun to finally see the queen and to see the dozen queen cells that were hanging off the bottoms of the frames. I assumed (from my reading, of course) that one would hatch and do away with all the other new queens. (I keep believing what those books and beekeepers tell me.) Now, I think we got several queens at once and they felt that they needed to split again. 
A n d t h e n . . .they swarmed again two weeks later.
After the first swarm, we watched the daily orienting flights of the new queen. She would take half the hive with her for short sight-seeing excursions. These turned into mating flights--we think. 5 days in a row. The 6th day was when it all turned sour. They swarmed up into a pine tree and stayed, instead of heading back into the hive. It was a Sunday afternoon.
Short story of it is (And I might add, I am VERY PROUD of our first swarm catch): we actually caught the swarm from very high up a pine tree this time. Thanks to a well-placed tennis ball with a string attached, and some clever box making, and a husband who doesn't give up. We shook all the bees into the box and brought them down. Queen and all. I was not prepared with extra hive bodies, so I put them into the empty supers I had, with what little comb I had drawn out. Then I made a quick trip to the lovely folks at BetterBee and bought some new hive-bodies and two hive top feeders, since I now had two colonies. (No one in western Massachusetts seems to carry the 8-frame boxes.) But, again, the bees did what they had planned in the first place and swarmed from the supers before I got home from the supply store. I know now that perhaps if I had put a frame of brood into the supers that they would have stayed. Hard to do since I had big frames with brood and only supers to put them into. But I could have removed a frame from the bottom super so that it would hang down. Too late. They left. The scouts came back, said "hey, we know a better spot.  in again and see what they have to live on for the winter and I don't want to have to take it away again while I check.
Swarm catching box raised up to the swarm.  A few shakes on the branch and we had them.
You can see the red maple below where the first swarm was.

We dumped, and shook the bees into these two supers.  They are all crawling up into the box like a backwards waterfall.
At this moment, we thought we were the coolest new beekeepers ever.  Caught a swarm!!!!

John looking for the newly mated queen.

In they march.  They were all fanning away to make sure they could smell that queen.And below is
a video, from my iPhone of them all marching in. 


 This video clip is when we were elated that we had caught the swarm--and before they all left for the second time.  Bye, bye bees.  These bees are all gone. The bees are really quite docile when swarming.   We mostly worked with just a veil and gloves.  Not one sting.  A couple bees chased our daughter up the hill, but still no sting.  Just the dog.   Got one on the nose.  The next thing, when it stops raining around here, is to see what stores they have left to live on for the winter.

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