Sunday, April 8, 2012


Looked out the window and noticed lots and lots of bees flying from the hive, spiraling up in the air.  uh oh, they are going to swarm.

Yep, they did.  But they landed in a dogwood tree in the front yard.  Not too high up.

Call the SWARM PATROL!  We are members of the Orange County Beekeepers Association and we called the swarm patrol.  Members who are informed and experienced go out and capture swarms.

Bees swarm when the hive gets too crowded.  They get together and discuss options.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the decision of the Queen Bee.  When they all agree to swarm, they push the queen out with them.  Then they land somewhere and scouts go looking for a new home.

There is a lot of advice on how to avoid your colony swarming but the general consensus is, they will swarm.  Some beekeepers try to put them back in the hive but they will just leave again.  They have made up their minds. 

Here is our esteemed swarm captain surveying the swarm.  Looks like he will need a ladder.

Taking a bucket with him, empty hive body on the ground, he climbs to the swarm.  (excuse the pictures, I took them from the safety of the house.)

Using a bee brush he brushed them into the bucket, placed the lid on it and climbed down the ladder to the hive box on the ground.

Dumped then bees in the box and put the lid on it.  Then dump buckets of bees on the ground in front of the box with the hope they will go into the box.  Some did, some did not as you can see them flying all around him.  

He repeated this process several times.  Finally after getting a lot of the bees on the ground or in the box he left to see if they would settle down.  He had another swarm to try and capture, just down the road.   They were not cooperating and he was stung several times.

He will return in a couple of hours to see if it was successful or if they leave again.  If the queen is in the hive box, they will stay with her.

This spring has been exceptionally busy for the swarm patrol.

When the Captain returned the colony was much calmer.  All seemed to be in the hive box.

 So he carefully closed the hive box, strapped it tight, wore his veil and drove home with the swarm.
Happy life in your new home girls.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring in the Bee Yard

Last spring we lost both colonies in the two hives we had started one year previously.  There were lots and lots of dead bees on the bottom board.  The inspector had looked at the empty hive boxes and determined that the colonies had likely starved to death during the winter because they were weak.

We bought two nucs and installed the new colonies in the hives. 

This winter there were so many warm periods and we frequently saw the bees flying.  We fed them in the fall in preparation for the winter.  Recently we noticed all activity had ceased in the yellow hive.  When we looked inside we found it empty.  The frames were empty.

And there were only a few dead bees.

We closed it up to keep out opportunistic insects.  The honey was gone and may have been removed by robber bees.

The green hive has been buzzing with lots of activity.  In the winter we put a reducer on the entrance so mice cannot get inside.  To mice this is heaven, warm, protected from the elements, and plenty of free food.  The reducer means when the bees are flying they have to take turns entering and exiting. 

Today we removed the reducer so they do not have to wait in line (I know how I hate waiting in line). 
Everything is blooming now, trees, shrubs, flowers, everywhere and the bees are coming loaded with pollen.  So with high hopes we added a super to the top.

Keeping with "beach colors" we put on our first super.  We removed the feeder (on the left) installed a queen excluder (this is a mesh screen that the bees can go through but the queen is too large to fit through) and then the super.  We do not want the queen going up into the super and laying eggs.  Hopefully this is where the bees will store their honey and we can steal it.  We only peeked into the hive today.  It was very active.  We will do an inspection in a few days.

Keep your fingers crossed.