pollinators

The Swarm

As mentioned in an earlier post, this year marks my third try at keeping bees in our top bar hive…and I am pretty terrible at it.

Here is my confession…I have not entered my bee hive since end of April / early May.

Once the flow started…as in nectar flow…I quit feeding the bees. I have yet to even remove my feeder that is located within the hive. No doubt that sucker is completely encased in honeycomb by now.

I’ve taken “natural beekeeping” to the extreme with my hands off approach. My path paved with good intentions has gotten me nowhere close to knowing what is going on inside that wooden box. If anyone in the New River Valley Bee Keepers Association read this post, they would be hyperventilating with disbelief. Everyday, a note circulates on their listserve about folks findings within their hives…how many frames are full of this that and the other, how many supers they’ve installed, the volume of honey they’ve extracted…so on and so on. My report? Um…

So. Hands off. Bees active. It’s all good right? Not likely, else the bees wouldn’t have swarmed last Tuesday. CRAP.

The SWARM

The SWARM

A bee swarm is both good and bad…swarming is a natural process of colony reproduction. It is a split. From one comes two. That is in the case of a STRONG hive. In my case, the swarm event was likely bad. I mean, I’ve only had these bees since mid-April. Some reading revealed commons causes of hives swarming:

  • overcrowding – possible, but I don’t know cuz I’ve not entered the hive
  • honey or pollen clogging the works (may be a good problem to have?)
  • over-heated – very likely as temps have been unusually high. This point also confuses me because keepers advised against opening bottom/screened vents
  • no place to cluster – not sure how this one is different from overcrowding
  • as mentioned, a reproductive swarm

So…was my swarm due to poor management or due to hive success? What is happening to the bees that remained? What happened to the swarm? Will I ever actually keep a bee hive through a season? So many questions…

I’ve only one answer at the moment. Though I am sad to know I lost a good many bees, I feel fortunate to have witnessed such an amazing event. The sky was full of the flying wonders! And as luck would have it on that day and at that time, I was able to reach out to a neighbor who I knew had two empty hive bodies. The swarm clustered in a nearby tree and was easily captured.

Clustering nearby

Clustering nearby

Closer view of the clump

Closer view of the clump

I am happy that the bees will be nearby, though I wish that I could’ve kept them for myself. Regardless, what a sight to have seen!

The swarm captured in an empty hive body

The swarm captured in an empty hive body

I’ve reached out to the NRVBK association with a plea for a mentor and am awaiting a response. It would be nice to enter the hive with someone who can advise me of what the heck is going on at the time….let’s see what happens with that….stay tuned.

Any beekeepers out there with some comments? Good, bad or ugly?

 

Honeybees, take three

Hopefully, the third time is the charm. This bee package is the third I’ve purchased in as many years, the second try for this top bar hive my dad built last year.

Installing bees

Installing bees

Last year, things seemed to be going so well…then boom. Done. I thought maybe the hive got robbed. After talking to some of the experienced bee keepers at the pickup site (of the bee package), it was suggested that my last hive died of either pesticides or starvation. Huh. Not happy with those possibilities. Not at all.

At any rate…at least this honeybee package will have a little advantage over last year’s bees…pre-built comb.

Comb

Comb

Some (um all) of it is crooked. I learned during the off season that the hive needed to be level (fixed that). I learned about cross comb (comb that goes from one top bar and crosses over to another), and that cross comb needed to be straightened as soon as it is noticed. Will do for sure this year. Some comb is cracked and some needs cleaning, but it is all usable.

Hopefully, the comb will allow the new bees to focus energy on the blooms that are opening up all around and build up lots of honey and pollen stores for the long haul.

Coming Saturday, my first hive check and more syrup.