Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Three Swarms

So far this spring, our bee hives have swarmed three times!  On April 28, while I was work, mom sent me the picture above, of dad poking a swarm of bees with a long pole that landed on a big branch of a pine tree.  Neither Jamie or I could leave work to go help, and although Byron and Dad gave it their best effort, they couldn't capture the swarm.  The branch was too big and too high, so there was nothing to be done but let the bees find a new home on their own.  Good bye, bees.  Although it was disappointing that we couldn't capture the swarm, since that would have been another hive to add to our apiary for free, I thought it was a good sign that our bees are doing so well that they felt strong enough to split off and create another hive.  

Mom sent us this picture too, which shows the swarm of bees that came from the second hive, all clustered high in a tree.  I don't know if you can see them, but they look like a giant pine cone, or a bee hive, hanging from a branch in the center of the photo.  That's a lot of bees!  It would be way too dangerous for any of us to try to reach a swarm that high in a tree.  So long, ladies.  

But then, just last week, a swarm of bees came from one of the hives, and mom and dad managed to capture it!  All by themselves too.  The picture above is a little blurry, but you can see that they put a table and an empty super under the branch that the swarm landed on.  Dad managed to grab the end of the branch that had the bees on it, and bend it down until mom could get a grip.  Then dad climbed in the back of the four wheeler cart, and cut the branch.  Crash!  A big clump of the bees fell right into the super below.  As you can see, the bees are all over the box and the table.  Mom said the bees were flying everywhere, and the swarm was just a foot from her face when it was on the branch.  Not a single sting.  Such nice bees.

If you click this picture to enlarge it, you can see that all those little dots in the photo, which I thought were pixels, are actually bees!  Bees everywhere!  And dad doesn't even have his hair covered!  The new queen must have fallen in the box, because soon all the other bees that were on the table and ground went in the super, and they've been in there ever since.  

On Friday May 6th, while we were getting all our gear together for our camping trip, mom and I took a few minutes to add some more frames to the hive box the new bees were in.  As you can see, even though they had only been in the box for two days, they had already built wax comb attached to the lid.  Busy bees, right?  

We were tempted to let the comb on the lid stay, and just add some frames around it, but I could tell there weren't any larvae in the comb yet, so I scraped it off the lid, let it fall to the bottom of the box (oops), and filled the box with the frames which have the wax sheets in them.  The wax sheets already have the comb pattern, which is sized for worker bees, not drones.  We don't really need to encourage drones, since these bees are swarmy anyway, and it will be easier to work with this hive if the comb is in easy to lift frames instead of willy-nilly.  I hope I did the right thing.  I didn't mean for the comb to plop to the bottom of the hive, so I really hope no one was stuck under it, especially not the queen.  

There didn't seem to be as many bees in the hive as I expected after seeing the pictures of the swarm, but it's likely that a big portion of the bees were out gathering pollen and nectar when I opened the hive.  As you can see from the front, there are bees coming and going.  

I didn't open the old hives, since we didn't have much time, but I did spend a few moments at the entrance, watching the bees come and go.  It's very soothing to watch and listen to them, and based on all the bee activity at the entrance, I think the hives are still strong, despite loosing so many workers in the new swarms.  The video below is the from the hive near the garden.  It sounds nice.  Enjoy!


MA said...

Did you notice on the underside of the lid it says "this side up" ha!

rain said...

Ha! I didn't pay any attention to that, since I was so focused on the bees. Next time we open the hive, I'll try to remember to turn it over.

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