I got a removal-gig referred to me by the guys at work – a home-owner had bees in her eave and really wanted them out. As it turns out, she also has a bee-tree that she wants to remove (tree and all), but that’s a post for another day. The colony in the eave was occupying a guest house that the home-owner’s mother is now living in and the bees were extra lively, making the homeowner a bit nervous. This was a taller eave – up near the top of the gable on the end of the building, perhaps 12′ high. And it was a fairly new colony. She didn’t see any activity last winter, and noticed them when she returned this Spring. So it’s a first-year colony, perhaps only a month old. Which is good – not as much honey to muck things up, but also can be a pain – the new comb will be very soft and extra care will be needed in handling. Continue reading
Scattered amongst the wildflowers I let grow on the back part of our property grows milkweed. A green variety that stays low to the ground and produces greenish flowers with bits of purple within. They’re neat looking plants and I hear tell that Monarch butterflies will lay eggs on them – so I leave them be. However, they have yet another benefit too – my bees seem to love them! I expected as much, but it’s neat to see the bees collecting from these flowers. The plant itself isn’t all that remarkable and the flower-heads are distinctive but not showy. And yet, the bees are so intent on these flowers that I was able to put the camera an inch from them to get closeups without their flying off. That must be some really good nectar!
I’m running a bit behind on blogging – this cutout occurred on the last weekend of April. My friend Ty of Windy Hill Organics wanted to get into beekeeping so what better way to introduce one to keeping bees than with a cut-out? You get a complete hive, bees, queen, brood-comb – and you get introduced to the structure of the colony and get a chance to experience a LOT of bees flying around you. My first hive was from a cutout I did solo and it’s been an adventure ever since.
I borrowed a frame of brood and nurse bees from my strong hive to bolster a struggling hive and I put an empty in it’s place. While I was in the strong hive, I split the brood up. I opened up the brood-nest, leaving an empty frame between every two drawn and populated brood-frames. I only had three empties – they were filling up the box fast! That was last weekend. Today I decide to go give the hive another looksee. Normally I’d ignore the hives for several weeks while they’re busy working, but with seven of ten frames of this hive occupied, this one is nearing maximum capacity and in need of another box. If I wait too long, it will form a swarm-cell to raise another queen and then it’ll swarm, removing several thousand bees from the work-force and setting back honey production for that hive.
When I migrated from Top Bar Hives to Langstroth hives, I was faced with a conundrum. What the hives sit on. Most Langstroth hives sit on a foundation or footer of sorts. It keeps the bottom-board itself off the ground to reduce rotting issues. A lot of people seem to use bricks or build fancy stands to put their hives on. But, if you have a bunch of hives, either option is expensive. Not to mention that bricks are heavy to lug around and stands can have a tendency to tip over, especially as the colony matures and the hive gets very heavy. Additionally, the taller a hive gets, the harder it is to work. My concern is not with a short two-box baby hive, but a full grown hive that’s five deep-boxes tall or six even. Put that on top of eight inches of brick and it’s just that much taller to have to deal with.
There was a time when bees actually made their own comb from scratch. No really – they actually did. Honeybees really do know how to make their own comb! Unfortunately, their comb making often does not mesh with our desire for order. If left on their own, the combs will often have curves, which is not conducive to movable frame management. There are a few areas in even natural beekeeping where for the sake of managing the hive and extracting a harvest without destroying said hive, we must depart to a degree from the purely natural and give the bees more motivation to make straight combs. In this case, the use of comb guides has proven beneficial.
One of the most useful tools in collecting bees is the humble swarm bucket. Trying to lug a heavy brood-box around to gather a swarm can get very cumbersome sometimes. The very first swarm I was exposed to as a six-year old – one that I aided the beekeeper when he wanted to snap a picture and had me hold a branch out of the way, inches from this mass of bees – the beekeeper used a brood-box to shake the swarm into. My first swarms I did likewise. But, it was heavy and hard to place when out in the brush. Some people swear by specially made bee-vacuums but I had a bad experience with a bee-vacuum killing bees, and it’s also inconvenient if you’re out in the brush too. Me, I like the simple 5-gallon bee bucket. The bucket is light and easy to lug and can be kept in the truck for those chance encounters that we all hope we come across as we’re driving around doing our errands. However, there is a caveat. Making sure I get all the flying bees but keep the queen in the bucket.