Tag Archive | behavior

First Swarm of the Season

May 17, 2015

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It may bee the first, but it certainly won’t bee the last swarm of the season. The funny part is that I never saw it happen.  I knew it was inevitable (tis the season), so I’d been itching to get the our swarm lure up.  We found a super tall telescoping pole on clearance, perfect for raising and lowering a swarm lure.

We took it out back, placed the lure on the pole and began to raise it high into the trees.  I looked up, and I’ll bee darned if there wasn’t a healthy cluster of bees hanging stealth-like in the very top branches.  About 15 feet above the swarm lure.  Buggers!

swarm 2
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They always go too high, so once again, I couldn’t retrieve them.  The other bees were flying around in wild frenzy in front of their hives – their typical response when a swarm occurs.  I should’ve known something was up.

Theoretically, scout bees seek out a new residence weeks before they swarm, so I had little hope that they’d sniff the lemongrass oil and make a b-line for the lure.  But it didn’t keep me from hoping.  We kept watch through the evening.  They were in the same spot the next morning, but gone by the time we returned home from work.  Another one lost…probably in someone else’s hive by now.  I’ll admit that my response this year is much more calm and accepting than last year.  I still don’t know which hive it came from.  They all look just as busy and well populated as they did before.

I hear about people catching swarms all the time.  Now I keep watch over the swarm lure in hopes of catching someone else’s swarm…or maybe, just maybe I’ll actually catch one of my own.  At this point, I really don’t care which, I just want to catch a swarm! :o)

 

Rules Don’t Apply to Bees – Part 2 (The Girls Come Home)

Sunday, August 24, 2014 (1PM)

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A week after Pink Hive Swarmed, I’m at a vineyard with friends, and the phone rings. I answered to a frantic hubster who is claiming that the swarm has returned and “they are moving back into Pink Hive”.

“Are you sure they’re not doing orientation flights?”, I asked. “No, I know what a swarm looks like,” he said. Indeed, at this point, he’s seen more swarms than I have. What’s more, he videotaped the event AND sent me a convincing photo. The swarm covered the entire front surface of pink hive.

WTH?

Seriously? What the heck? It had to be the same swarm. I can’t believe a stray swarm would just happen to move into the same hive that just swarmed…unless they sensed that hive was weak. It wasn’t visibly weak though. In fact, I would never have known it swarmed if I hadn’t seen the swarm myself. I planned to wait 2 weeks before checking for brood. As it stood, inside and out, the numbers looked good!

We were thrilled to have them back, of course, but were a bit dumbfounded by what had happened.  So I proceeded to research the heck out of it.

Potential Theories

Theory 1:  I’ve heard of swarms moving into an empty hive.  That makes sense, it’s a ready-made home with no inhabitants and no threats.   Pink Hive was not an empty hive, it was an active hive, so this is unlikely.

Theory 2:  I’ve heard of swarms moving into weak hives – hives that are low in numbers and are either queenless or have a weak queen.  Since the hive had just swarmed, there’s certainly a chance the hive could have been queenless.  They were lower in numbers, but not weak.  Perhaps it was weaker than I thought.  It was a first year hive, and the swarm was a big one, so there’s no doubt the population was hit hard, regardless of appearance.

Theory 3:  Sometimes when a swarm leaves a hive, if the queen is left behind, they will return to the hive within minutes.  They’ll remain in the hive until a new virgin queen emerges, then they will swarm again – usually within a week or two.  When this happens, it is best to split the hive or create a fake swarm before they swarm again.  This should prevent the second swarm from occurring.   However, they came back within hours or minutes.  They came back a week later!

Theory 4:  They’ll often return to the hive if the queen is lost or damaged during the swarm process.  Again, this usually occurs within hours or minutes, which makes me wonder if the queen had been damaged or killed during our botched attempt to retrieve them or during their journey elsewhere.  This seems the most likely situation to me.  Their numbers were halved from their original swarm.  Perhaps their chosen location didn’t work out.

Theory 5:  They just needed a vacation, perhaps somewhere warm, a little less crowded where they could relax and enjoy some sites.  The Carolinas maybe, I hear that’s a popular place with the bees.  They’ve worked hard this season, they earned it :o)

If Only Bees Could Talk

Boy, wouldn’t we like to know the real story?  I do know that there’s a chance of another swarm, if it hasn’t happened already.  The traffic is minimal at the entrance.  I added another box for space. They have tons of capped brood. I’ll give them a check this weekend.

My money says they’ll swarm this Sunday, just after our big family arrives for a nice outdoor get together…in true BooBee fashion. Ha ha. Nothing like giving my inlaws a show!  After all, Sundays mid-mornings are their favorite time to swarm.  Of course I’ll either be useless the rest of the day, or I’ll just let them go…again.

Oh well, they’ll do what they want to do, when they want to do it.  :o]

Bees Gone Wild

June 8, 2013 (Day 29)

Bee activity between the two hives has certainly synched up.  But Wednesday afternoon I noticed a tremendous amount of activity around the two hives.  The girls were going nuts.  It was nice outside, in the 80’s and somewhat overcast.  Tons of bees were outside the hives flying and buzzing around like crazy.  I was afraid that maybe they were preparing to swarm.  But no swarms occurred.  As the evening fell, they settled down and went back into their hives.  They’ve been fine since.

Of course I had to get it on video…

Cool Facts About Honey Bees

Below is a great post that lists “10-Interesting-Facts-You-Did-Not-Know-About-Honey-Bees” .  If you didn’t think honey bees were fascinating before, this might change your mind…

10 Interesting Facts You Did Not Know About Honey Bees

by mayyam at http://mayyam.hubpages.com

For a few years, my summer job was working for a local bee keeper. I would sell and package honey and I got to witness many interesting occurrences. I was terrified of bees before I started working there; Now I not only got over my fear but I am fascinated by them as well. Honey bees are very important to us and are responsible for a great deal of the world’s pollination. I have compiled some very interesting facts that I learned working for a beekeeper. Hopefully you’ll learn something!

  1. Worker honey bees are all females. Males do not know how to even feed themselves and their only reason for being in the hive is for reproducing with the queen. The males do not have a stinger and they are kicked out of the hive in the fall, because there are no uses for them.
  2. Honey bees are very clean and I’d like to think they have slight OCD (like me). They want their hive (which they made themselves, hexagon by hexagon) to be immaculately clean. If something dirties their hive, they will immediately get the offense out. The only honey bee in the hive that uses the bathroom inside the hive is the queen. She never leaves the hive, so her faithful workers get her mess right out. Bees will also make sure that when their time comes, they will die outside of the hive.
  3. There is only one queen per hive. The queen lives 2-3 years as appose to the 6-8 weeks like the workers. The queen is made, rather than born. Worker bees will feed larvae royal jelly for a certain period of time. The royal jelly is secreted through the heads of the worker bees and is fed through their antennas to the larvae. The royal jelly has so many vitamins and nutrients it will allow for the larvae to become queens. Since there can only be one queen per hive, the potential queen bees will fight to the death until there is one queen remaining.
  4. Honey bees, like their name implies, are the only insects to make honey. Bumblebees make a honey like substance, but it tastes nothing like the sweet honey we know and love. They also make this in very small quantities. Honey bees though make honey in surplus so bee keepers are able to take a certain amount without hurting the bees or depriving them of food.
  5. Honey bees never sleep! No wonder worker bees have such a short lifespan!
  6. Honey bees are the only insects that produce something that humans eat. It is also the only food that never goes bad! Its sugar content is too high. Edible honey was found in King Tut’s tomb!
  7. The honey bee colonies each have a distinct odor which allows for them to identify the members. Often times bee keepers will need to assimilate colonies. A way to do that would be to place bees from each colony into a paper bag together. The paper bag should have a divider so each colony stays in its own side. Being in the container together the smells will mix and they will not be able to recognize the other bees as enemies due to their familiar odor.
  8. The Queen bee lays around 2,000 eggs per day! She can also select the gender of the larvae. Most larvae that will be produced will be female.
  9. The Average honey bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. To make one pound of honey it would take 556 workers and 2 million flowers. 50-100 flowers are pollinated during one collection trip. About one ounce of honey is all it takes to give the honey bee enough energy to fly around the world (although the farthest they usually fly away from their hive is six miles).
  10. Bees are responsible for 80% of pollination that occurs. So next time you’re eating any fruit or vegetable, thank a honey bee

The “Honey” Report

A business trip took me away from the bees this past week. Adding a new box was a big deal and I was anxious to know how they’d progress. Since I couldn’t be here, I had to depend on my Honey – the hubster – for a full bee report.

When I decided to take on this venture, he made it pretty clear that, although he would support me, this was my venture. He would stand and observe from afar, back off the sidelines using what seemed like a 12 inch camera lens. Now he walks up within a few inches of bee covered frames (no gloves or gear) to take close-up shots with his iPhone. Don’t believe me? His new IPhone cover pic no longer shows beer – it shows our bees. If you know my hubster and his love of beer and brewing, then you’d understand the significance of this action.

I couldn’t be more thrilled about his growing interest in what he now calls “our” bees. This change has been completely on his own terms, of course. I was especially grateful that he’d kept an eye on them and offered regular status updates while I was away. He even lifted the top covers and checked their feeding situation. That’s progress!

It was good to hear that the girls were doing well. Oddly, where the green hive had been much more active before, the yellow hive is now the more active hive. The temps also turned to the 90’s, very hot and humid. Before the hive expansions, this would have caused the bees to cluster on the hive front. That’s not happening now. Hopefully because they have more space, better ventilation, and lots more work to do. But I shall dig into the matter (literally) this weekend to verify!

Until then, enjoy this short clip of the girls at work…

The Lawnmower Test

May 22, 2013

Lawnmower approaches bees

I really never had any fears about handling the bees. That part is exciting and fascinating and so cool. But one thing that did concern me was mowing the lawn. You see, bees don’t like loud noises or strong smells. And one of my weekly tasks just happens to involve pushing a very loud and stinky lawnmower within several feet of the hives.

Stories were told in my bee class about unsuspecting spouses or neighbors getting stung while mowing, and others said they wear full bee garb when they mow. Most have their own methods, like mowing the bee area first and doing it as quickly as possible. And then there are those who have never had an issue and said it depends on the personality of the bees. That’s the group I wanted to be in, since I have no interest in wearing a full jacket, veil and gloves to mow the lawn in peak summer heat.

The inevitable day did finally come when I had to do my part of the lawn. The hubster had ridden past them a few times on the riding mower and had no problem. So I decided to risk it and wear my usual t-shirt and shorts.

I started at one end of the tree line and gradually worked my way up toward the bees. I could see them out and actively buzzing around the hives. Within 10 feet, I decided to alter my route by mowing all the way around the garden so I could approach them from behind.

I moved toward them, closer and closer, expecting that, at any moment the guard bees would release their pheromones, beckoning the hive to full on attack the creature behind the big, loud, smelly machine. I worked fast.  Two or three buzzed past my head, but that was it. I made it past without incident.

I decided to push my luck and attempt to mow another section on the opposite side.  Again, they didn’t seem interested.  A nice little beard was formed on the front of the green hive and they didn’t move. So I mowed in front of the hives.  I’d gone full circle and they didn’t care.

This was an excellent discovery, indeed!  All that worry for nothing, and I wouldn’t be the neighborhood freak mowing the lawn in 90 degree weather dressed in a full bee suit. Even better, it meant that my bees are easy going and not excitable or irritable. Just the way I like my people! I can only hope this personality trait will translate to future generations, as bees turnover every 6 months. So I’ll be doing the lawnmower test again with an entirely new colony for next year’s mowing season.