Monday, May 28, 2012

A week of swarms and hot weather!

I have had an amazing week of swarms and challenges with bees that I have never had before.
First of all I had a second swarm at my own apiary, A classic swarm and luckily accessible, only 3 meters from  the mother hive and a nice height off the ground.
Easy to deal with and went in to its new full size hive with no problem at all and now seem to be drawing out comb at a rapid speed.

Ereac Swarm

On wednesday morning I went down to Ereac ( about 45 mins from Corseul) to collect a bautiful swarm that had appeared in a garden the evening before. I was there at 8 am in case the swarm moved on and when I got there  was luckily still there.

 The swarm was on the branch of a  hybiscus shrub and as you can see the weight of the swarm had caused the branch to bend over and touch the ground. This was not a problem and knowing that the bees had been there all night and were quiet I simply  cut the branch off (with the kind help of the property owner) the branch and simply placed it on top of the Nuc containing 5 frames . 4 of plain wax sheets and 1 of drawn up comb that had all been sprayed with sugar solution.

They seemed to be happy with the home I offered them. They soon filtered  in to the frames and then started Fanning on top of the box and also on the front landing strip.

Then slowly I closed off the top lid, causing them to revert to fanning on the front landing strip and the majority of the remaining bees then were called back in to the hive.

 The weather was hot  so I had to be quick. You have a dilema! Should you come back that evening and collect the hive when every single bee has returned to the hive and also run the risk of the whole lot absconding during the day or do you cut your losses and chose the right moment and close off the front.
Don`t  forget that when you put the frame over on the temperatur will start to rise to you havent got long before they may find it too warm.

I think I lost about 20 bees but all was well. I drove back to the apiary and left them there for about 15 mins before opening the front door and letting them out. They were so well behaved and simply in and out for a while before settling down.

Flying swarm.

Well I said I had been an amazing week. On my way to work after collecting this swarm I flew in to another swarm that was passing over the road I was on. Luckily I was not going to fast and immediatly adjacent to me was a small lay by, So I pulled over and took up the chase!.
I went through 2 gardens and 2 fields and simpy ran with the swarm. Its an amazing experience. The swarm stopped a couple of times , paused over a couple of buildngs, obviously not choosing each place as a possible resting place, and then moved on.
We got to a small valley and they simply vanished in to the top of some large oak trees and they were gone!
What an experience I will probably never see that again.

Swarm arrives at a swarm trap

With the weather being perfect after about 2 weeks of cool and wet the potential for swarms is large.

I checked this trap as I was passing the garden on the way to see another client. On the way back this is what I found.

  A beautiful swarm had cast and landed on the front of the trap

The big question was, why was it on the front of the trap and not inside. I was perplexed. Usually some bees arriving at a trap would  gather around the front of the entrance, or even virtually cover the trap, but they would  gradually move in to the trap.

I phoned up my beekeeping teacher who at the time was also up to his eyes in bees, told me that they may well go in on their own but it may take a day but if they don`t go in to the hive by the following day then I should take off the top of the hive and try and coax them like that.. So I left them alone and took some Pics for the album. I came back that evening and  they were even more clustered above the entrance. So the following morning I decide to try move them in. It was nearly a costly exercise. The minute I took of the lid and started brushing some of the bees in to the box, the bees initiate a mass take off. What a sight. The whole swarm was in the air and circling the garden. They went over the garden wall  and then came back and very fortunately, settled on a shrub in the garden. Again I was extremely lucky. They had chosen a lilac shrub about waist height.

So what next, Well I also had my swarm trapping box with me so that was my next weapon of choice. It was obvious they did`nt want to go in the Nuc that the scout bees had drawn the queen and the rest of he swarm to.
I waited until they had all settled and then put the box underneath them and gave a large shake and the majority went in. Then closed off most of the bottom door, leaving access and slowly turned over the box and put it on the ground.

Bees appeared at the front fanning nicely. This time the queen was in the box and at the moment, happy to be there. I closed off the box and lost about 10 bees but thats nothing to loosing a beautiful swarm!
I transported  them to the apiary and used the white sheet method to give them the sense of walking in to their own hive.

So I set up a ramp leading  up the the nuc box and I have chosen a nuc box because i felt that the size of the swarm did not merit a large hive and in this sized box it would probably get away quicker!
I tipped out the bees on to the ramp and just let them decide what they wanted to do.

They all climbed up well, straight in to the box

To cap all this activity, when I was pouring all those bees on to the ramp one of my nucs started swarming. It spewed out bees for about  2 minutes and they all took to the air in a  amazing spectacle. They headed off in to the nearby scrub so I followed them from a distance. Fortunately I was had another nuc spare at my apiary which I grabbed and ran with.
They settled after about 5 minutes on to a gorse bush. It was a good size swarm for a nuc box and I just took pot luck and just shook them off the bush straight in to the nuc. They immediately started fanning and going in via the front landing strip. I put on the lid and walked them back to the apiary where they are now installed. What a week! hope this weather continues like this.

Nuc box underneath gorse bush

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Swarm at the Apiary and cut out.

 First swarm of the year.

I drove past my hives yesterday to find this lovely swarm hanging from a small hornbeam shrub in front of my hives. I can only assume it has come from one of my hives but I have artificially swarmed all of them recently and only found open queen cells in one hive so I am really confused as to where this large swarm has come from and also the volume of bees it has come with. The obvious thing to do was to put it straight in to a hive and because of the volume of bees I have decided to put it straight in to a 10 framed hive. I also had some spare frames from a hive I lost in the autumn so they instantly had comb and some honey on these two drawn up frames.
All went well and I managed spray most of the fames with sugar sirop and to get the hive right underneath the swarm, gave them a really good shake and all fell on to the top of the frames. I then watched as they all started filtering in to the frames.

Lots of bees then started fanning which usually says" come on in its ok to all the other bees or you can also have some comfort that the queen is likely to have been transfered in to the hive but its never a done thing thing until you see eggs laid in to cell. All seemed to be fine as I had to go out later that after noon to do the cut out described below so I left them in peace with a hurriedly put together feeder and a full load or syrop.
So later that evening and nearly dark, I drove past with another colony of bees that I had just cut out and there they were all again hanging on the same hornbeam shrub. This is typical of swarms, typically unpredictable!! They can look all well and happy in their new come and then they abscond.
Fortunately they moved back on to the same place as before. 

So What to do next?, well back to basics but as it was dark I simply just took the hive and put it back underneath them and left it there for the night. I came back the next morning and the weather was drizzly and colder but they were mostly all still there but with a few more of them were inside the hive and using it as a half way house.  I think one can assume at this stage that he queen was there, somewhere, as on the rear on the hive worker bees had started to draw up comb overnight, it was  also on the hornbeam shrub as well. It was obvious that thats where they wanted to set up home.  So later that day I had another idea.
I got hold of a white sheet and a board and as large plastic tray. I then carefully moved the hive away from the swarm, back to the place it was the previous attempt. Set up the board as a ramp in front of the hive and the covered this with the white sheet. I then took the large plastic tray put it underneath the swarm and gave the shrub a really good shake. All the bees then fell off in to the tray with very little flying around.  I then simply lifted the tray over to the ramp and then tipped out all the bees out on to the middle of the sheet.
Immediately they started marching up towards the entrance and in to the hive, one  by one stinger to antenna, with a good few on the ramp fanning  and calling the remaining up in the the hive. 

Within 20 minutes they were all in. It`s a really natural way to hive them and I think it has given them the feeling perhaps that this time, they have chosen their location themselves. Its almost as though they needed a bit of time to decide for themselves what they wanted and where they needed to be.
The next morning all is well. They are all still in the hive and all looks good this time.

 The previous evenings cut out

This is what we found when we opened the shutter of this property, a beautiful swarm that seemed to have arrived about a week before.  Luckily they had built comb  only to the top of the wall at this stage. Another few week and the whole thing would have been a lot more difficult.

So I my plan was to try and cut out the comb,  try and place it in to some frames and then I was banking on the fact that after this the majority of the colony would then sense the queen and comb were not there and follow their senses and move down the wall  to the new position of their  home, and thats exactly what I did.

With any swarm the first job is to assess the state of the swarm and the behavior of the bees. I knew they were only recently established  and at this stage they have very little to protect. Their queen usually has not started laying until about now and there`s not much comb to deal with. The bees seemed very well behaved. and the weather had actually turned out fine for the first time for a long time. This always helps.

I put a nuc box on the window sill and tied it to the railings. this worked really well and meant I had free hands to do the cut out. So First thing was to smoke the bees a little, this will also help ascertain their mood.
I thought it would be better to smoke the right hand side first, as that way I could remove each section of comb one by one and hopefully find the queen if possible. This is rare but I put a queen holder in my pocket just in case I saw her for a few seconds.

I made up some Dadant frames with some fairly taught rubber bands around them. Each time I cut a piece of comb out I simply lowered it in a frame and slid the bands across to hold them in position. On the third piece of comb, I remarkably found the queen, grabbed my clip and she just walked in. How lucky was that? This was actually the middle piece of comb that she had just started laying in to, as there was some 50 tiny white eggs in the centre of the comb. So I had the queen. At this stage, provided she is not damaged most cutouts  are easy. If you loose a load of bees its of no real consequence as long as the queen is safe she will commence relaying within a few days  and then the numbers of bees will soon build up again but its always best to get the maximum amount of bees possible so the colony can re-establish as quickly as possible.

Loading the comb sections in to the hive (shown above)

One last section to cut out, but this had no eggs, pollen or honey . Its interesting to note that if you look behind the ladder, on the under section of the granite lintel, you can see the previous position of the existing swarm that was there 2 years before. They are known to swarm to previous positions! QED

At this stage I was not sure what was going to happen. Was there enough swarm pheromone in the queen to get all the others to follow her in to the new position. I left her in the clip but placed the clip in to the hive and hung if on one of the frames. That way the other bees knew she was present. Its during a cut out that you may be better off with a bee vac and if I had left it another few days more before I  tried to remove this colony then they may not have been so easy to remove them.  Quite remarkably they just walked down the wall, in to the nuc containing their existing comb and queen.

All comb removed and a very little smoke to move them on their way.

Bees marching down the wall!

A bit of a mess here but generally all moving towards the front of the nuc and marching in.

The last bees move in.

You can see some of the bees fanning with their bottoms in the air , producing the nasanov pheromone from a gland under their wings. The fanning of their wings sends this up in to the air, calling the others in. This is one of the most beautiful things you can see in nature. The smell is quite overwhelming!

Within another 20 minutes they were all in. I simply closed the front lid and we had our colony.
I then transported them to my apiary and let them settle for 10 minutes and then opened the lid and let out the queen in to the colony. Job done!
The next day I actually transfered them straight in to a 10 framed hive and also gave them a bit of brawn up comb to help the get their colony up and running faster, needless to say a feeder as well.

Amazingly in less than 24 hours of their arrival at chez moi, they had started building comb to the top of the frames I had placed their original comb in to. They are obviously happy and just want to get on with re building.
 I have done a video of this whole cut out but it needs some editing. As soon as I can I will post the link here.
Many thanks to Miranda Bell      firstly found this swarm and secondly was the only person to get stung  while filming and taking many photos but it was an accidental sting as a bee had gone down her glove when she removed it. Thanks Miranda.
22 May
Heres some footage of the bees moving in to their new home I only have included the final few minutes at this stage but it gives you some idea of the noise and volume of bees

Monday, May 14, 2012

Artificial swarms and some honey!

Well it's amazing how things can turn around in a couple of weeks. With the slightly better weather we have had over that last couple of weeks and all the moisture from the previous 2 weeks before that, we now have some decent nectar flow. I am only taking honey from 2 hives this spring but when I had a look at these 2 hives last friday, to my surprise both supers were nearly full.  In my excitement I have added another super to each hive and even though I am not expecting these two additional supers to be full by next week ( which is when i intend to harvest) it hope fully will give the 2 hives more space until next saturday when I intend to harvest and also artificially swarm the two hives afterwards. I have also given them some brand new supers to get to work on, which  will make them more attractive to fill up for the summer honey and hopefully will be putting these supers  back on,  around the first week of june or as soon as the oil seed rape has finished flowering.

I carried out performed 4 artificial swarms which seemed to have gone well, but i will not look inside the nuc until a clear 4 weeks have passed in order to give the new queen all the time she needs to get her act together and start laying.

I have also received a call this week from a friend who has found a swarm of bees that has now turned in to a small colony, behind a shutter of a house she looks after. So this coming thursday I will be going to cut out this swarm and place the "football sized " nest in to a nuc or hive depending on its actual size and condition I find it in. All very exciting and also a nice early swarm which should  also be ready for the sumer honey crop.
I will be filming it and also taking pictures so stay posted and all will be revealed probably over the next weekend. But before I get too excited I will see what I find when I get there.
RE My swarm Traps,
 Now I have heard of a swarm from early last week ( probably around then) I am going to start to watch my swarm traps more closely. I have seen a few bees around many of them already so thats a good sign a gives you more encouragement after all this cool weather.

The other bit of good news it that we have nesting barn owls on our house box. I managed to get a few seconds of the female last week and have posted it on u tube. she is rather cute!

Heres the link.