Nothing much to report today. Refilled the syrup on the split hive I acquired from Juile (they are thirsty!) I hope this means they are busy building comb inside. They still seemed agitated and overly active, so I didn’t open them up this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow I will check for queen activity. Tonight I plan to spend some time cleaning up an old deep and frames to use in case I receive more swarm calls. I like the size of the nuc for doing this, but right now it still has the last swarm living in it until I get time to transfer it. Hopefully a few days of settling into the nuc frames will cause them to consider them home so when I move them to a 10 frame hive they will stay put.
Well, the weather was much better for bees today. I think we hit 96 with moderate wind. I decided to move the nuc to Mom & Dads property today to let them adjust to their new home. I hated to move them so quickly, but my gut told me to get them out there, so I did. They filtered into the box fairly early in the evening which worked well for Shannon and myself to deliver them to their new home. The 5 acres my parents live on should provide ample food and water. My only concern this year is the GMO wheat that is around them right now. I hope they tend to stay busy with natural habitat on the five acres with honeysuckle, clover and such, but I’m not sure they heard me when I told them not to go too far from home. I feel that I should probably transfer this colony to a full 10 frame hive very soon. Probably as soon as they completely draw out the 5 frames in the nuc. I think they will need to space for brood rearing and also for ventilation. I don’t think my rendition of the nuc gets much ventilation. I designed it to catch swarms and transport, not as a permanent or overwintering nuc.
The other hive that is still at my house in town looks somewhat promising, judging from the entrance anyway. There is a fair amount of foraging. They have not only discovered my syrup feeder on top of their hive, they have consumed 1/2 gallon each day since I placed it there. I hope they are using the close food source to draw comb. I have not taken another look into this hive. I felt like I had disturbed them enough and needed to back off. I may take a look early this week. If I cannot find a queen or new eggs, I am going to try to score a frame of eggs from another beekeeper if possible. I need this hive to get going. The clock is ticking on the season, and so far mother nature has given us little to no moisture. It could be a tough summer for the bees. I hope I don’t have to spend a fortune on syrup and supplements to pull them through.
The five stings I took to the knee area last week STILL itch! My body does not care for being stung. My throat doesn’t close up, but my skin seems to take about a week to forget about having been stung. Like I told Julie a few days ago, it seems that once I open a hive, immediately I forget everything I know and have read about bees. I get mesmerized and do dumb things almost every time. I really must get better at this soon.
There was tons of activity around the nuc box that I placed the swarm into from two days ago. Something just didn’t seem right though. I had left the entrance screened off over night with fiberglass mesh tape, which they had actually chewed through to escape. Against my better judgement, I decided to take a look and see what was going on. What I found was nothing like I had expected. Initially I thought I would add two empty frames with foundation for the bees to draw out. I figured this might keep them occupied and settle them down a bit. But when I slid the frames in, they wouldn’t go down all the way. I figured it was due to the fact that there were so many bees in a small 5 frame nuc. I looked in a bit closer and saw the dreaded piles of dead bees at the bottom of the box. Now, the weather has been crazy here lately, and the night I brought the bees home the temperature did drop into the low 40’s, but I’m fairly certain that this loss was my fault. When I was collecting the swarm it was very tough to get them brushed into the box to start with, so I began spraying them with sugar syrup as I would drop in a fair number. I must have sprayed more than I thought because once I dumped the pile of dead bees out of the nuc, they seemed to be sort of gooey and stuck together. I should not have used syrup so late in the day when I collected them. They did not have enough time to clean each other up before the temperature fell that evening. This is one of those dumb things that I cannot believe I let happen, especially after all the research I’ve done and using my knowledge from last year. After searching through the pile of dead bees, I never spotted a queen, and there are still lots of bees left in the nuc, probably a more sustainable population for the small space actually. So, another day, another loss, but huge lesson gleaned from this tragic mistake. The remaining bees did filter back in and settle down, so I hope there is a queen and I hope she will begin laying eggs soon to reverse the loss. Also I am hoping that the bees will draw out the wax coated plastic foundation that was not my first choice to use due to some negative reviews I’ve heard from other beekeepers in my area, but only time will tell.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.” –Albert Einstein
Did you know the Honey Bee is the State insect for Kansas? http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Kansas/insect_honeybee.html
Thanks to HoneyLove.org for this video on capturing a feral swarm of bees.
This is my first attempt at keeping a blog of what I am doing as a Kansas beekeeper. I hope that by following my actions, inspiring beekeepers in my area can keep tabs on what I’m doing during this beekeeping season. I will try to post most everything I am doing and I will also try to keep it updated, so you can see what worked, and what did not.
- Performed a split with a friend of mine, Julie. She had an abundance of bees and I had lost everything over the winter. We took one of her strong hives and took 2 frames of brood, and roughly a frame of pollen and a frame of nectar and oh, 3 pounds of bees or so. We found no queen in the hive we took the frames from, but there were plenty of queen cells, so we cut one of them out and I stuck it on the edge of a brood frame that we took from her hive. The hope is that in lieu of a queen, or any young larva, this would give me a viable queen rather soon. Once I got the hive to the house, I placed it in a quiet corner of my backyard and let them settle in for the night. A few bees came out for inspection during the late evening, but nothing more. I placed an open syrup feeder on top of the hive. I would not recommend this, but I had no other deep hive bodies handy to place the feeder in just yet. Many beekeepers frown upon open feeding because it can induce robbing, and it can spoil the syrup quickly from direct sunlight.
- Today was the first inspection of the hive from the split that I brought home. Upon inspection, to my surprise, I found that the capped queen cell I had placed in the brood frame had not yet hatched. I did some research and found that once a queen cell is capped, it can take approximately 9 days for her to emerge. I added more sugar water to the open syrup feeder and tucked them back in.
- Today was a bit more promising, but not much. I hated to open the hive again so soon, but I am trying to see that a queen is in the hive and laying eggs so I can relocate this new hive to the country. I found that the queen had emerged from her cell, but I saw no sign of her in the hive. My hope at this point is that she was on a mating flight when I opened the hive and will soon return. The bees were very aggressive which does concern me. From some experience, I can now usually tell the difference in the bees’ demeanor when the hive is opened. A queen-less hive has sort of an unsettled roar to it when you open it. A queen-right hive usually has a calm demeanor if everything is right with the colony, unless they are battling some other force such as hive beetles, ants, or robber bees. I closed them back up for now and plan to leave them alone for a few days.
- Very exciting day. I have an active listing on craigslist for free bee removal, and today the phone rang. The call was a landlord with a concerned tenant who had a basketball sized swarm on a tree in a fence row in her back yard. Promptly, I grabbed my smoker, suit, brush, spray bottle of sugar syrup, and a 5 frame nuc box with some frames of drawn comb from a previous hive. Once I located the swarm, I quickly brushed bees into the box and sprayed them with the syrup to keep them occupied. This swarm was very calm the whole time, and eventually the bees started marching into the box as I held it to the tree trunk. This usually happens once you have the queen in the box as they can smell her pheromones and will follow her anywhere. Once I had 99% of the bees in the nuc, I closed it up, screened off the entrance, tied a ratchet strap around it and headed home (in a dodge neon). I don’t recommend travelling with a hive of bees inside a sedan, but I had them securely boxed up and I kept my bee suit on with the hood dangling in case they escaped. All went well, no one was hurt.