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Saturday, April 25, 2015

From The Slumps To The Garden Penthouse

Finally Moving The Slump Block Bees

Bees in the slump blocks
We initially decided that we wanted to keep and move a hive of bees in April of 2014, when we first discovered that bees had moved into the slump blocks of the retaining wall in the back yard.

We didn't understand why the bees would select such an odd place and actually such a vulnerable place to settle down.  We also didn't want them to stay there, because of all the yardwork we do and the likelihood of constant disruption to their works.

Building The Hive
Bee hive number one

We completed the dog eared beehive at the end of June.  That was most likely much too late in the season to move the slump block bees from the retaining wall to the hive, so we set it up and patiently waited for the following year when the hive would most likely split and could be easier to move.

The Swarm

March 8 2015 Swarm
We thought initially that we would catch the swarm when the hive split and then summarily kill the remaining slump block bees to make a clean break and give them a much larger place to live...  And then our consciences started picking at us once we captured the swarm and got them settled in early March.

We weren't expecting it to happen so soon.  It went very well and the bees seem to be happy with the new digs once they got to work.

So, the new swarm bees got the house intended for the slump block bees, and we really don't know if it was a split from the slump block bees or not.  A mystery never to be solved.

Beehive number two
Then Mr. Man got to work on a new top frame beehive, edition 2.0.   This work was completed mid-April.  This hive has two observation windows and a restricted entrance, plus a few other improvements Mr. Man is writing up details for me to post.

Prepping For Moving Day

We had some work to do before the big moving day.  We needed to elevate the hive above the planting ground by setting them on top of four cement blocks that were set at the same height as the retaining wall.  This required digging up some soil, tamping down and compacting the soil, then adding soil around and into the centers of the blocks to keep them 'planted' firmly in place.  The new bee hive was set on top of those, and then we started the move.

We started up the smoker

Making Moves

Now, if you want to know the truth about what is easier, catching a swarm or moving a hive, the answer is a swarm is significantly easier and cleaner than moving an established hive.  Catching a swarm is also a lot less dangerous than moving an established hive.  We were prepared, we got the stuff together and the smoker started and it was still nuts.

We had a large bowl to catch the comb, we had the pry bar to
scrape the comb off the block, a queen clip just in case we found the queen bee and a drafting brush (much cheaper and just as effective as a bee brush).

We have our bee suits and gloves on and knocked on the neighbour's door to let them know we were going to be upsetting the bees.  Since there was no answer, we were feeling pretty safe to get started.

Slump block hive cap

Surprisingly Small

We were very surprised by how small the original hive was.  It wasn't all that wide, but it did run deeply down three sets of slump block caverns.

The hive was only three combs wide, as evidenced by the tops of the combs that were pulled off with the decorative block cap.  Obviously doing well and loaded with tons of honey.

We pulled off the second brick and saw that the combs were quite
Slump block hive, layer two
deep.  We searched as best we could to find the queen bee, but we have never had any luck spotting a queen bee any time we worked any of the hives and swarms.  The sheer number of bees keeping house for this small bit of comb was pretty amazing though.

Slump block comb
We set about totally demolishing the old hive by scraping the comb off of the block and laying it on a baking pan.

We checked
Variety of  bee larvae growth stages in some cells.
the cells and there were many different levels of growth.  We couldn't identify cells that had eggs in them. We did see some cells with tiny c-shaped starts and some empty looking cells and put them in the new hive with some worker bees and some honey laden comb in hopes of forcing them to grow a queen.  This is the best shot we can offer them at this point.  A much better option than just killing them off with bug spray.

We also discovered there were several geckos staking out the soil just around the slump blocks and are certain they were picking off little bees at any opportunity.
I guess the bees didn't mind it too terribly much since they continued building and living in the hive.

New hive on left, old hive on right.  Both shaded.
At worst, we could end up with an empty hive for another year until we can more easily snag a new swarm of bees.  At best the bees will make this new hive a successful hive.  We don't know what will happen for sure.  In the mean time, we have our twin garden hives.

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