Tag Archives: bee swarm

My Bees Swarm Again

Gift Of Summer

The second day of summer and my honeybees swarm again.  This time it was the second hive, the one that barely had anything going in to wintering and they managed to pull through.  The size of the bees from this hive is small too, smaller than the first hive’s bees.  It didn’t matter how many times I inspected this hive, I could never find the queen.  They’ve also  taken longer to build up their strength.

They pulled a high noon on me.  They swarmed exactly at noon before settling on a birch tree and waiting for the scouts to find a perfect place for their new home. I set up a new base, super and frames in a hurry.  At least I have base, though not yet coated, and frames this time.  No inner and outer cover though.  I’m using a winter inner cover and a wooden board temporarily for now.

Retrieving a swarm from twelve feet above ground wasn’t easy.  I thought I could spray them with water and brush them into a cardboard box.  As it turned out I can only do one thing at a time because I needed to hold onto a branch to prevent myself from falling off the ladder.  So, forget the brush.  I sprayed them then pulled the cardboard box along the branch that they gathered on.  The majority of them easily dropped into the box.  I quickly closed the cover and took them to their newly prepared home.   Then, back up the ladder again.  After three trips up the ladder I got most of them.  They settled pretty fast in the new hive, hive #6.

Hive #6.  I had to make do with uncoated base and bottom board, winter inner cover and a wooden board for the roof but they settled in pretty fast.
Hive #6. I had to make do with uncoated base and bottom board, winter inner cover and a wooden board for the roof but they settled in pretty fast.

After I finished with the swarm I inspected the original second hive.  This time I had no mercy.  I removed all the queen cells, two had already opened anyway, to prevent further swarming.  All frames in the super above the queen excluder were filled with honey.  So I removed four of them that were completely sealed, left the one that was partially sealed in there for them.  The bees punished me with four stings.  It really wasn’t their fault, I was robbing them of their food supply and I wore only a t-shirt, veil and gloves.

Now I have four frames of honey that need to be extracted and a new hive.  I found an old English poem below while searching for swarming:

           A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;

           A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;

           A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.

According to this poem, I nature has given me a load of hay and three silver spoons plus four frames of honey (so far).

Four frames of capped honeycombs from the swarmed hive (#2).  I should have removed some honey from hive #1 as well but after four stings, ..think I'd rather wait.
Four frames of capped honeycombs from the swarmed hive (#2). I should have removed some honey from hive #1 as well but after four stings, ..think I’d rather wait.

Not Finished Swarming

The Third Swarm

The first hive swarmed again on the morning of June 7.   This is the third time within a month for this hive.  I think I should start naming the hives since I’m going to have five of them, and maybe more if they keep on swarming.  I didn’t expect to have this many hives since our property is not big, though we have plenty of woodland nearby.

I did my usual walk around the garden in the morning when I encountered the swarm.  First I just saw a few bees flying on top of the Wisteria but when I inspected closely I realized that they had already balled up on the branches.  I grabbed the same old cardbord box I used to catch the previous swarm, water spray bottle and tried my best to set up a base to put them in prior to disturbing them.

The third swarm from the first hive balled up on the lower branches of Wisteria
The third swarm from the first hive balled up on the lower branches of Wisteria

I didn’t have a full set of hive equipment left and the new order was still in transit.  Luckily, I still have one old base that I didn’t have time to sand and coat, a winter inner cover, a regular cover and an empty super.  I sealed off an opening in the middle of the winter inner cover and set it on the old base as a bottom board and then put an empty super on top.  I closed the middle opening of a regular inner cover with a screen for air flow to keep the bees from getting in or out, and to get it ready to be used as an inner cover.

Then I woke my partner in beekeeping up to help me cut the Wisteria branches down. This swarm was the easy one because it balled up on lower branches that we could cut and drop into the box.  The fun part was shaking the bees into the empty super.  The majority of them just dropped in but there were still plenty of them flying around.   Once I saw that some bees were trying to get inside through the top screen, I knew I had the queen in there.  I opened the plug at the bottom to give the outside bees access and it was like a vacuum sucking the bees in.

With a screen on top, the wandering bees can smell the queen and try to get in.  As soon as I opened the bottom entrance, they just poured in.
With a screen on top, the wandering bees can smell the queen and try to get in. As soon as I opened the bottom entrance, they just poured in.

The equipment came in a few days later.  We opened both boxes that the swarms had settled in and put frames in, then changed the base and cover.  Both hives had already built large comb attached to the inner covers and were somewhat annoyed as we replaced their furnishings.  I had linen pants on and managed to get stung a couple of times on the legs.  They have settled in now but the weather has not been on their side in the last couple of days, pretty damp, cool and cloudy.  I’m debating whether I should feed them.

Hive 4, from the second swarm on June 3, has built comb under the inner cover with some honey and pollen.  I felt so guilty having to scrape them off.
Hive 4, from the second swarm on June 3, has built comb under the inner cover with some honey and pollen. I felt so guilty having to scrape them off.
Hive 5, from a swarm on June 7, has also built up comb but with less nectar and pollen. I couldn't believe how fast they can build. This is only three days work for them.
Hive 5, from a swarm on June 7, has also built up comb but with less nectar and pollen. I couldn’t believe how fast they can build. This is only three days work for them.

The good news is my lovely neighbor has offered to house one of the hives providing I look after it for her.

 

Bee Swarm

Start A ‘Beezy’ Season

We came out of winter with two out of three hives having survived.  One hive was wiped out by starvation.  Then one of the surviving hives was attack by skunks.  It was the smallest hive that I didn’t think would pull through the harsh winter.  I was really discouraged and guilty too, as a matter of fact, by the whole situation.  I fed both surviving hives as soon as the weather permitted, one gallon of sugar syrup each, and hoped for the best.   Once they started foraging, I stopped feeding them.

On the morning of May 20, with high temperatures and plenty of sunshine, the first hive swarmed.   I caught just a few of them and set up a new super to house them.  The swarm prompted me to do a complete inspection of both hives right away.  The second hive, smallest of the two, had a healthy population, though not plentiful.  I couldn’t find the queen but there are some larvae in there.  No mites, no moths, so I left it alone.

The first swarm, while some were flying around, the majority of them gathered in front and under the hive
The first swarm, while some were flying around, the majority of them gathered in front and under the hive

The first hive is the problematic one.  After the swarm, there were still plenty of bees in the hive, too many and too crowded.  I decided to take two brood frames with one queen cell attached (wasn’t sure I got the queen from the swarm) and two honey frames from this hive to help the bees I caught from the swarm set up their new colony.  I closed all entrances with screen and locked them in for a day in their new home.

I replaced what I have taken from the first hive with new unused frames to provide more room.  A couple of days later they acted like they wanted to swarm again.  So, I decided to split the colony to prevent them from swarming.  I took a whole super with two queen cells (more mature cells than the first one I had taken) and some brood frames and bees from the first hive and combined them with the new hive.  If everything goes as planned, the first queen that hatches will kill off the other two.

I've taken the bottom super from the first hive.  The middle super is the swarm I caught, with a piece of newspaper in between to make sure that they merge well by let them chew through slowly.  The top super is empty, just used to cover a top feeder.  I also closed the top entrance with screen so the weaker swarm bunch won't get robbed but they can still go in and out from the entrance between them and the super below.
I’ve taken the bottom super from the first hive. The middle super is the swarm I caught, with a piece of newspaper in between to make sure that they merge well by let them chew through slowly. The top super is empty, just used to cover a top feeder. I also closed the top entrance with screen so the weaker swarm bunch won’t get robbed but they can still go in and out from the entrance between them and the super below.
The third hive now, with the newspaper, shim and top feeder out.  They get along well and are busy foraging.
The third hive now, with the newspaper, shim and top feeder out. They get along well and are busy foraging.

Back to the first hive, I added a queen excluder and a new super on top of it.  I also opened the entrance completely for better airflow.  So now this hive has a whole new eight frame super on top of the queen excluder plus four new frames in the brood chamber, and the entrance is also wide open.  I thought I had done enough for them but I guess Her Majesty thought otherwise.

They swarmed again on June 3rd.  This swarm was larger than the first one.  I caught most of them, again wasn’t sure I had the queen.  If someone tells you that getting a swarm from the lower bush is easier than from a tree branch, keep in mind that it’s not always true.  It suggests that the person has never experienced retrieving a swarm from a thorny rose bush.

This is a rehearsal swarm in the morning, 20 feet up on a maple tree. They got back to the hive before the actual swarm to a lower rosebush in the afternoon
This is a rehearsal swarm in the morning, 20 feet up on a maple tree. They got back to the hive before the actual swarm to a lower rosebush in the afternoon

I house them temporarily in one of the empty super’s with my last remaining frame in it.  No cover either, I’m using a piece of wood and two bluestone pieces to weight it down.  Hopefully, an order for new equipment will arrive soon before they start building comb on the inner cover.  I don’t want to feel guilty for having to destroy their hard work.  It would also be a little set back for the bees as well, to have to build the whole thing all over again, albeit, I am providing them with a beeswax foundation in each frame.

This is a rehearsal swarm in the morning, 20 feet up on a maple tree. They got back to the hive before the actual swarm to a lower rosebush in the afternoon
I’m housing the second swam with what I have, a base, screen bottom board, a super, one frame and a wooden board as a roof. They’re busy bringing in pollen and nectar now.

 

 

Bee Swarm

They weren’t suppose to….

I set up our first bee colony on May 9 this year and have been doing everything by the book ever since.  I have been feeding them since I set them up.  The instructions said I should feed them for at least 6 weeks or until they no longer take the sugar syrup.  Some instructions even advised feeding them until August.  They have been finishing whatever I give them, once a day lately.  They forage simultaneously.

By my third inspection, I found plenty of bees in the hive.  The super on top of the brood box was also more than half full.  I decided to add a third super, with a queen excluder set between the second and the third super.  I thought the queen would have enough space in the bottom two supers to continue laying eggs.  At the same time I found a couple of queen cells in the second super.  They looked more like supersedure cells.  I thought I might have smashed the queen by accident, or she wasn’t well so they ‘re trying to raise a new queen.

But this morning, about to leave the garage on my way to work, what to my bloodshot eyes should appear?  A huge swarm of honeybees outside in the clear.  They soon coalesced on a tree branch about 20 feet too high for me to reach.  Nuts.  Lacking a very high ladder or a bucket truck, I was out of luck for reaching them.  The hive split, we still have a viable hive, but it’s smaller now.  We hoped to recover the swarm with their new queen but the only option open to us was a bait box sprayed with lemon grass scent in hopes of luring them in.  It didn’t work.  They hung onto the tree branch covering their queen protectively for about two hours while scouts searched everywhere for acceptable real estate.  Finding something they evidently liked, the swarm left en-masse, not to be seen again.

I thought they weren’t suppose to swarm in the first year.  It’s just two days short of two months and half of them decided to leave.  My friend at work told me, when I called to let her know that I need a day off, that they were too well fed so they populated faster than usual.

I’m still trying to figure out why?  The queen excluder I put in between the second and the third super?  Would they leave if the queen was able to lay eggs on the third super?  Anyway, I’ve stopped feeding them now and am debating whether to harvest some honey from the third super since most of the frames are full.  I’ll decide when I make the next inspection in a week.

Hanging out on the Maple tree 20 feet above the hive.
There are far more bees now than when I purchased them, and this is only half of the population.