Honey Bees

10 days ago we had honey bees swarming in our front yard. Quite the sight!

They coalesced into a bowling-ball sized swarm in a boxwood next to our driveway.2017-May-bee-swarm

This is at least the 4th time this has happened over the years. We used to have them living in our bedroom wall and in 2006 we captured a swarm into a beehive. They did not stay around very long, though. We still have the hive components, so we decided to give it a go again.

The next morning the swarm was still in the boxwood. It was chilly and rainy so we knew they might not survive long — bees cannot fly in the rain and trying to stay warm in the rain would sap all their energy. We snipped the branch with the swarm and dropped it into the beehive we had set up in the driveway. Unfortunately, a clump of bees dropped offduring the transfer. The next morning the uncaptured bees had reswarmed so we repeated the drill and then had most of them in the beehive. We left them there for about a week; once it got warm and sunny they became, well, busy as bees, collecting nectar to centerd out their new home. Yesterday morning was quite cool, so we took advantage of the resulting bee lethargy to move the beehive to a more suitable location.
2017-May-beehive

This location is not ideal, a bit close to the road, but it gets morning sun to wake the bees up but by afternoon the maple tree shades it to help prevent overheating.

We are not too stupid, though, so despite the coolth we did use a smoker when we opened the hive to put in a sugar-water feeder. Upon moving a hive you are supposed to keep the bees confined for several days, but today is forecast to be 90° and we don’t want them overheating, so we opened it up this morning. Hopefully they will not get too confused at their new location.

Busy As Bees

It’s been ten mostly cloudy, unseasonably cool days since we set up our beehive. Yesderday was bright and sunny so we thought we’d add the rest of the frames into the beehive — we were rushing to get the hive together before the swarming bees found another hive, so when we set it up we only had 4 out of 10 frames ready. [Note: see www.beeeducation.com for a good anatomy of a beehive.] Well, to our surprise and chagrin, the bees had already filled the empty cavity with honeycomb! We did manage to get a queen excluder and a super on the hive with its 10 foundations.

Bees

Last spring we discovered that we had honeybees living in our bedroom wall. They were getting in via a gap where the siding meets the chimney. Now, we saw this as a sign, since Kirsten has been talking about getting bees for several years now. Last spring the colony swarmed — this is when the colony splits into two, the queen leaving her daughter behind and taking half the workers off to a new nest. Seeing this inspired us to mail-order a beehive kit over the winter. [Continued next picture …]

Bees [Continued]

Well, two days ago we noticed around noon that the bees were again swarming. So Eric hurredly assembled one hive body while Kirsten read up on how to get the swarm into the hive. Here you can see that the bees choose a nearby spruce tree to swarm in while looking for a new nesting place. For a fascinating look at the complex communication system that bees use to choose a new nest, see this recent article in Medical News Today). [Continued next picture …]

Bees [Continued]

The technique that we used was to set the hive body on the ground next to the tree, then cut the branch with the swarm and give it a good shake to dump the bees into the hive. (Kirsten has the proper hood and some other equipment from when she had bees before.) It appears to have worked as the bees are quite active in their new home. Now we just have to complete the other parts of the hive and decide exactly where we want to locate it. We may get some honey this fall, but most likely we will need to wait until next year. Mmmm … honey!