beekeeping

Second swarm

I am finally getting around to posting these photos…first posted them on Facebook.

Recall a previous post on 6/29? Well, my top bar hive swarmed again. No, I still haven’t entered it. The farm’s to-do list is mighty…but enough on that…here is the capture of the second swarm into our neighbor’s empty hive box:

second swarm

second swarm

The swarm was tightly clustered due to yet another damp, drizzly day. Fortunately, they went to the same tree only on a lower branch just a foot or less above my head.

close up

close up

Branch cut and hive loaded

Branch cut and hive loaded

The branch the swarm was on was rather tiny in diameter as you can see…unlike the first swarm that was at the end of a thicker branch. For this second swarm, we were able to trim this branch easily without disturbing the cluster of bees (the previous swarm…the branch we were lightly pulling on in order to get to a good cutting spot just snapped, fortunately over the hive, but the clusters was dumped rather haphazardly until this capture). My neighbor is barehanded. With swarms, the bees are usually very calm. They cluster around their queen. They have gorged themselves on honey before leaving. Plus, with the drizzle, they are trying to keep warm and dry. These bees were not the least bit concerned with us.

captured!

captured!

My neighbor stuffed the branch and all into the void. There is a queen excluder on the front at the opening. That keeps the queen inside the hive while allowing all workers and other bees access in and out (queen is much larger in size). My neighbor positioned the hive so the opening was somewhat downhill so no water would pool inside the hive body. The hive sat in place for a few days to make sure the bees remained with it. Under the cover of night, the whole hive will be relocated (bees are moved at night because they all tend to be finished with foraging for the day and are all inside).

The amazing thing? I still have very active bees in MY hive. One of these days…I will see what is going on in there! Stay tuned…

 

Demise of a hive

And now for some bad news.

After a second try at our top bar bee hive, another failure. Yes, I am disappointed and saddened by this outcome.

Here is what I think happened…

The hive truly seemed to be doing very well during the peak garden season…July. Lots of activity. Our top bar has 3 openings. At the time, only one opening was unobstructed. I decided to “help the bees out” by allowing access to another opening. I think that this decision was my biggest mistake. My second big mistake was that I had stopped feeding them.

Understand, I am new at all of this business. With the bees, I don’t want to be always in their business (i.e. constantly entering their hive). Perhaps not the wisest plan.

So…what happened? Well, the hive got quiet. Bees were still going in and out, but the numbers seemed much less than usual. Eventually, no activity was going on.

Opening up the hive revealed:

  • no honey
  • no brood
  • no bees

Did they swarm? One of the combs had what looked to be a queen cell/swarm cell…I need to read more on the difference.

Were they robbed? This thought is what I am leaning towards. Why? All the bodies. When I removed all of the top bars, this view is what I saw:

Bodies in the bottom

Bodies in the bottom

Bodies were also present outside the hive (hard to see because I had mulched with straw around the hive).

My suspicion is that when I opened the other access hole into the hive, my new, weaker hive was unable to defend both openings fully. My neighbor has two established hives just down the hill from us. I bet his bees found my hive and helped themselves.

Thinking I was helping my hive, I think I caused its demise simply by removing a cork.

Combs

Combs

See that funny looking “growth” on the comb…top of the photo, sorta orange in color? Queen cell? Swarm cell? I don’t know. Did the swarm? Were they robbed?

Any thoughts?

Well, I’ll be trying again in the spring. At least I have some beautiful comb on the top bars that will give my next bees a head start. I’ll have a different management plan for next time, too:

  1. Keep only one access hole open
  2. Check the hive at least once a week
  3. Provide supplemental feed for the whole season
  4. Consider relocating hive to a different spot in the garden

Honeycomb

I just met with the president of the New River Valley Beekeeper’s Association who, it turns out, works just down the road from me. He is selling bee packages of which we purchased one. Our bees are due to arrive on Monday. In the meantime, I bopped down the road to retrieve some honeycomb he most generously offered up to me. I can install this comb in the top bar hive as a way to give the new bees a head start. They will clean it up and reuse it as a basis for starting their new, fabulous hive. Thanks, Mark, for that little boost. I will see him again Monday morning to pick up my bee package. Hopefully, by this time next week our hive will be buzzing! Very exciting.

Honeycomb - smells sooo good.

Honeycomb – smells sooo good.

Perfect cell spaces

Perfect cell spaces

Two combs

Two combs