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Tuesday, April 26, 2016


The New Bees Ran Away From Home...

It is really disappointing and kind of deflating as a beekeeper when the bees disappear.  Like coming home, looking forward to seeing your friend only to find that the friend has moved out while you were away and didn't even leave a note.

The Relationship Autopsy

The easy response is to just say Those stupid bees didn't know how good they had it.  The reality of the situation is a lot more grim than that.  When looking back on what happened this time and the last time we tried to move the slump block hive, there were some common symptoms of the problem.

What Happened?

In both cases, the bees started out okay.  We thought we were doing good, giving them a nice warm cavern out of the wind where they could build their combs.  Then, after the first day or two, the bees dwindle... then dwindle a little more...  No foraging.  We check inside and they are all huddled together to keep warm.  What does this indicate?  Slow starvation of the bees.  When we figured this out, we felt really bad about it.  And when we finally figured out how to help them, it was probably too late.

How Did This Happen?

In the last two instances, we moved bees that had no reserves.  The Scottsdale swarm had started building on the branch and probably had no more honey reserves for their foraging energy.  The slump block bees were not prepared for a move and all their comb and honey had been robbed by the new hive.  They then had no energy for foraging.

Bees need food to get energy to build wax comb and to forage.  We did figure that out, and put some of the honey from the other hive in with the bees along with a slat of comb.  We checked on them and they didn't eat anything.  They stayed huddled in the top corners.  We weren't even sure the queen was still around.

Then, I tried to google a few keywords, and found some very helpful information about keeping a swarm alive during dearth, during transition or after capturing a feral swarm.

You Can Lead A Bee To Honey

The strangest aspect of this issue is that simply putting honey out for them is not going to help.  What helps is making it warm.  Like 100 degrees fahrenheit warm otherwise they can't eat it.  We ended up taking some warm honey out to them, putting drops here and there and the little bees were sucking it up super fast. They seemed to have a little more energy, but it is probably too little too late.

When I went to check on them today, there were even fewer bees.  I added warm honey for food and saw one bee deep in the transplanted honeycomb.  One bee does not a hive make.

Sadly, we relisted our free bee removal add on Craigslist.  Sad because I would rather have been successful this time.  We'll do better next time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Bees!

Scottsdale swarm

New Bees For Beehive Two!

We decided not to wait for a swarm of bees to happen to find us this year.  There hasn't been much news in our area about active swarms like there was last year.  So, we put an ad on Craigslist for free swarm removal in our area.  It only took about 3 days to receive a request to pick up a swarm.

We were excited and packed up our gear - suits, a home depot bucket with lid, and a couple of ladders...  We did drag our feet a little in order to time the swarm capture with dusk - when all the bees return to the hive.

Capturing Scottsdale warm

A Drop In The Bucket

It is surprisingly easy to capture a swarm.  The method is simple - place something under the swarm and give it a good jerk and shake (if you can).  

This swarm was a bit odd as they had started building comb in the branches.  We gave the branch a good shake and many bees fell into the bucket, but returned back to the tree branch where small deposits of honey and wax had been started.  

We gave it a good shake again, the same thing happened. We surmised we probably did not get the queen and she may be flying back to the wax or is clinging to the branch really well. We decided to cut the branch and put the wax covered segment in the bucket.  

Stick and Scottsdale swarm in the bucket

Long Live The Queen

Once we put the branch segment and the little bits of comb into the bucket, things became significantly easier.  The bees began flying to the stick rather than back to the now non-existent tree branch they once claimed as theirs.

The comb is fresh and empty as indicated by the light coloring and non-capped cells.  The bees haven't done much aside from making comb so I assume they decided to stay on the branch about 3 - 5 days ago.

The bees that make the comb are probably between 12 and 20 days old. This makes them about teen-age of their 5 to 7 week life span.

During the bee life-span, the bees change their jobs, and finally become foragers after reaching 22+days old.
Temporary Hive

We Puts It In The Bucket

Once the queen and a majority of the bees were in the bucket, and the bees started flying into the bucket more than out of the bucket, we made a smaller opening to simulate a beehive entrance and we waited for the foragers to return home.

The confused little bees first went to where the branch was, then headed for the bucket because the bees were fanning their pheromones to let the foragers know where they moved to.  

It was about 7:00 pm when we decided all the foragers came back and flew into the bucket.  We just set the lid on top to ensure the bees couldn't escape, but didn't close it tight in order to not jolt the bees when putting them in the new hive.
Scottsdale swarm in hive two

Movin' On Up

Once we arrived home, we opened up the hive and placed the stick of bees inside.  We were gentle with the stick to ensure that the queen would not be damaged during the exchange.

Once the stick was moved, we upended the bucket and poured the bees into the new hive.  The empty wax was plucked out and laid on top of the hive bars.  The bees that were flying around decided to head inside for the evening to stay close to the queen.

Fanning pheromones for foraging bees

Home At Last

We didn't close off the entrance to the hive because these little bees had nothing to eat or drink inside.  Mid morning, my husband reported that they were hovering around the hive, but not foraging like the other hive bees.  

I was pretty sure they were orienting to the hive location before they could set off on their foraging duties.  

After arriving home this afternoon, the bees were fanning their pheromones for the foraging bees.  We can't help but think how easy this was and feel very fortunate for being able to keep bees.