Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Bee Adventure

Swarm of bees on fence post    
In April I posted a photo of a swarm trap Sam had placed in a tree in hopes of attracting a swarm of bees.  But this past Saturday, they came right to one of our fence posts along the creek.  Sam discovered them that afternoon while I was in Marietta working at our club's obedience trial all day.  He went up and retrieved one of the 2 swarm traps and brought it down so that the swarm would hopefully move into it.

 The trap is on the ground behind Sam and you can see the bees on the post on the side away from the camera..  

So first,  a little info on bee swarms.  Each hive has one queen bee and literally thousands of worker bees, who are responsible for many jobs, from taking care of the queen and baby bees, to bringing in nectar and pollen and making honey.  The height of spring nectar and pollen flows is a good time for the bees to multiply to guarantee the survival of the species.  So the hive makes a new queen by feeding special food to a baby bee.  Since there can be only one queen per hive, once this new queen is ready, the old queen takes 1/2 the existing worker bees and they leave the hive in search of a new home.  This is a swarm.  They say they will usually alight on a tree limb or building or pole within about 300 yards of their original hive.  Most of the bees will form a cluster around the queen while scouts go out searching for a suitable new home.  Once they find a suitable place, the whole swarm will lift off and relocate.  

So the idea behind catching a swarm is to entice them into a hive we have made for them.  Sam and I have never dealt with a swarm before and the thought of getting them off the post and into the box was a little daunting.  So since it was evening already, we placed the box on the ground near the swarm and hoped they would discover it and move in.  There was some lemongrass oil in the box, which we are told bees are attracted to.  We kept checking throughout the evening, but they stayed on the fence post.

Bees are now in the temporary box
Sunday morning dawned sunny and beautiful, and the bees were still on the post.  It was Mother's Day and Sam's parents were coming over around 12:30, so we decided we needed to go ahead and  move the bees into the box.  We suited up, lit the smoker and off we went.  Sam was to hold the box under the swarm and I was to brush them off the post and into the box.  That really did not work, the bees were clinging to each other like velcro.  So I set the brush aside and scooped with my hand.  Once I did that, many of the bees fell into the box and even more flew up into the air and started swirling around us!  It was so different from when I am working with a hive and they are angry at my intrusion.  In that case, they will "ping" off my face veil and I have no doubt they are mad.  These just flew up and circled and eventually landed, on us.  I got as many bees as I could off the creek side of the post and then I had to climb over the fence and scoop from the other side.  I really wish we had had someone there to take some photos while we did this.  Sam said by the time it was over I had a living pony tail of bees from my head clear down my back to my butt.  Sam had a crown of bees on his head.  We used the smoker to try to get the bees off each other and it helped a little, but not a lot.  Eventually I shucked out of my bee jacket and left it hanging on a fence post and Sam did the same.

Bees in swarm trap box

We left the swarm box close to the post where the swarm had settled because we had other things to do and we also had to finish preparing a new hive as we really weren't quite ready for this.  I hoped to install the bees into the new hive the next day, Monday, but it rained all day.  Tuesday was the day Sam goes to an auction with his dad every month, so I had to go to the office.  I left  the office at 4 pm and raced home trying to beat a thunderstorm to get the bees into their new hive.

I changed my clothes, lit my smoker and headed out to the location for the new hive, which is very close to where we found the swarm, just on the other side of the fence in one of the alpaca pastures.  I got the new hive all set up, then backed the buggy up to the fence and hopped over to retrieve the swarm box, which I set into the back of the buggy.  Then I climbed over the fence again, put the swarm box next to the new hive box and transferred the frames from the swarm box into the hive.

This is by no means a large swarm.  They were still very docile and the whole process went very quickly.   

Once all the frames were in the new hive box, I closed it up and put some sugar water on top.  These bees are pretty much starting from scratch.  They have to build comb so they can raise babies and store honey.  I did give them some drawn comb, but they need to make much more, so I will keep their feeder jar full to supplement what they can bring in.  Now I will just keep an eye on them and see how they progress.

As nervous as we were about moving the swarm, I will say it was quite a rush.  Now that we have done it once we know what to expect and I don't think it will seem so daunting next time.  Now Sam has to build more hive boxes and I need to put together more frames.  We have never had 3 hives at once before.  I sure hope we can expect a honey harvest this June.

Since my last post I have taken my alpaca rugs off the big loom.  I have yet to finish the ends, however.

I also have a new project on my small loom at home, which I will post more about at a later time, but here is a sneak peak:

 There is not a lot going on otherwise.  We still have shearing to look forward to.  Maybe this Sunday we will get to that.  The weather has remained very cool, so it has not been an issue.  

Grover and I do not have another trial until June 18 and 19 and that will be in Sharonville, in the Cincinnati area.  Between now and then is the wedding of Ian and Michelle out in Oregon, which I am very much looking forward to.  For many reasons.  Both my brothers will be there and there are very few opportunities for us all to be in the same place these days.  Ditto both my sons.    And of course we will be officially welcoming Michelle into our family.  It is going to be so much fun!

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