Monthly Archives: July 2010

Last (and first) swarm of the season

The other day… well really June 25th, my phone rang at about 6:00pm just as I was sitting down to dinner. It was Margaret. “Guess what?!” she exclaimed. I took a wild guess: “your little hive bees swarmed?” “Yes!” she said. “Want to go on a swarming adventure and catch them?” so about 10 min later when I had finished eating, I gathered my bee supplies and headed out to catch a late swarm of the season.

It was quite the adventure of the day! David and Simone (Margaret’s son and his partner) were there to watch and take pictures and Billy witnessed the excitement from the kitchen window with his binoculars. There they were, thousands of buzzing bees all clumped up together hanging from the branch of an apple tree. Margaret cut the branch the bees were on while I held it and gently lowered the whole cluster of bees and branch into the box and put on the lid. Hardly a buzz to be heard… it was a very smooth swarm catch!

We secured the box onto the top of the ladder to let all of the bees get in and later that night Margaret closed the box and moved them into a sheltered place under a russian olive tree waiting for us to install them into the hive the following day.

We carried the box over to the new hive location after the evening goat milking. With the false-back just after the 11th top bar toward the front, we removed 9 of the bars leaving on each end to serve as a sort of lip for the bees to get into the hive. “Vhooom!” They were in with a bustle of energy. As the bees crawled up to the top of the hive, we replaced the top bars and sat by the hive, waiting for a bit to make sure they seemed content and satisfied with their new home. Everyone was crowding on the landing board sticking their butts up in the air “fanning” to let the other bees- and the world- know where their new home is. We watched as they all slowly made their way into the hive until only a few bees remained on the landing board. What a late season adventure it was!! Ironically, this very group was the one Margaret and I caught in mid April from one of my hives that had been hers the previous year. Hopefully these girls will be happy in their new home and find lots of nectar to keep them through the winter safe and strong. What a great swarming season it was!! All in all, backyard hive and bee guardians around the area caught about 70 swarms  this season. Whew!!

~Photos courtesy of David Hollander~

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To use smoke or not to use smoke….

OR      

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about honeybees lately and it makes me wonder about when beekeepers use smoke and the effect it has on the entire hive. We top bar people have it really easy in the way that smoke isn’t at all necessary to use because only one or two combs are exposed at a time in the hive so we’re only aggravating about 1/8th of the bees in the hive at a time and as we file through to the next comb, the last one is closed with the previous one again. It’s a great system in so many ways and for me it’s easy to say “oh, smoke isn’t necessary!” “why stress them out more by causing a fake fire for them and wasting all of that energy they put forth to evacuate and gorge honey when it could be used for cleaning the hive, dealing with pests and collecting food?””Smoke messes up all of the hive’s pheromone sent and ways for communication… it’s hard to get the smell of smoke out of things after being around a campfire and so on… imagine how much smoke residue would be in a hive if it’s been smoked every week for even just one year!”

While I do agree completely with all of the reasons and questions I ask for not using smoke, maybe I’m missing some crucial point about why Langstroth hive users and especially commercial beekeepers tend to use smoke. It could be that the Langstroth hive is designed for speed and to work the hive by quickly being able to take out frames and both because of this and that taking off the lid exposes so much of the hive. Even the organic beekeepers who use langstroth hives use smoke! I wonder what the theory is behind it because it seems so unnatural and rude to just smoke the bees out so blatantly. It could be too that the smoker is a bit of an emblem for the beekeeper and as Corwin has mentioned, maybe we need a new one. Perhaps the artistic hive tool or a grass brush… Any ideas??

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Lemon balm hive transfer nuc swarm is doing well

The lemon balm swarm hive (transfer nuc) is doing really well and they’ve already built pearly white comb on several of the bars toward the front of the hive! I’m hoping that they’ll be ready for the Linden tree bloom coming up here. There is a beautiful linden tree about 100′ from this hive and every year the bees go wild with excitement over this mid summer treat.

Mmmhmmm….. I can’t wait to taste the lovely linden flower honey this year! Yummy!!

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Filed under Hive info, local climate