Tag Archive | move

Caught a Swarm…Finally!

April 16, 2016

IMG_2309

While I was in Hagerstown, the hubster almost ran face first into a low hanging swarm of bees while push mowing the lawn.  I pulled in the driveway a bit later to a very anxious hubster, “Get out of the car…quickly and gear up,  We have a swarm.”  We’ve had swarms before, but they’ve always made a bee-line (pun intended) for the highest branch in the tallest tree, making it impossible to retrieve them.  But THIS time they were conveniently located on an outside bush about 5 feet high.  Yay!.

Preparing for Capture

Full credit to the hubster, he had the box ready, the tarp in place, the branch clippers in hand, and he finally suited up in the gear I bought for him last year.  The only thing I had left to do was prepare the actual hive, soon to bee their new home.  Luckily I had just cleaned out Green Hive the night before (kismet you say?  Perhaps!).  With Green Hive in place, I pulled out several frames in the center to leave space for dumping the bees, and left the entrance wide open.  No entrance reducer.

I geared up, head to toe, and we carefully scoped out the swarm.  It wasn’t a huge swarm, and since the hubster didn’t see it happen, he questions whether it came from one of my hives.  I won’t know until I inpect the hives, and even then I still may not know unless I can see a noticeable difference in the number of bees.  Hopefully they’re free bees from someone else’s hive.  Goodness knows other hives have benefited from my past losses.  But back on topic…

The Capture – Play by Play

The Hubster trimmed around the branches so we could get in and cut the cluster out of the bushes without disturbing them.  The box was at the ready.  A few snips and I carefully lifted the cluster out of the bushes and shook them into the box.  The hubster closed the box and quickly carried them over to Green Hive.  I grabbed the branch that held the remaining bees and followed.  I shook the branch of bees into the hive, then took the box from the hubster and gave it quick whack to knock the bees down to the bottom of the box, then I tilted it sideways and gave another quick whack to condense them into a corner of the box.  I opened the top, turned it upside down and dumped them in, followed by a few shakes to empty out the slackers.  I was pretty certain we had the queen, but the only way to know is to watch the bees.  The bees will stay with the queen.  I placed the box and branch outside the hive.  Any bees the didn’t make it into the hive would go in themselves if the queen is present.  Of course, with all the excitement, there were lots of bees flying around, we left them alone and revisited the location where we found the cluster.  The bees left behind flew amuck.  They confused and wondered where their colony had gone.  They clustered in the location where the queen’s scent remained, but within a half an hour, the area had cleared out, so we knew the queen hadn’t been left behind.

IMG_3726

Mission Accomplished

I prepared a bucket of sugar syrup, added it to Green Hive and left the entrance open.  Bees were entering the hive, a very good sign.  Tomorrow I’ll inspect the other hives.  In the meantime, I’m getting boxes and frames ready for the other hives, to make sure they have empty frames for building comb, that the queen has plenty of space to lay brood, and that they have honey stores so I can stop feeding them syrup.  We still have a few weeks before adding the honey supers.  That happens when clover begins to pop.

I think it’s safe to say that bee season is here, we’ve had our first successful swarm capture, and Green Hive back in business.  A good way to start the weekend, indeed.

Advertisements

Mint Hive Moves to Colony Row

Saturday, September 13, 2014

IMG_2590

When Pink Hive combined with Purple Hive, a prime spot opened for Mint Hive.  Mint Hive sat alone,  just 4 feet in front of the other hives, and was virtually engulfed in a forest of asparagus ferns. The bees didn’t seem to mind and they even switched their flight path from straight ahead to sideways. They are adaptable, it just takes a bit of time for them to figure things out. That’s why it’s best to approach major changes in baby steps, like moving Mint Hive in line with the other colonies. Here’s the process I use for moving hives, which I assure you is a very infrequent event.

Step 1. Blocking the Entrance

Friday eve, I removed Mint Hive’s entrance reducer. The girls came out and inspected. I gave them an hour or two to settle down. When it was dark and I was sure the foragers had returned for the night, I snuck up and blocked their lower and upper entrances til morning.

Step 2. Moving the Hive

Early Saturday morning, around 7am, I recruited the hubster’s assistance. We easily lifted the hive and moved it to its new location.

Step 3. The Long Wait

I left the hive shut tight for 24 hours.

IMG_2708

Step 4. Freedom at Last

Sunday morning I unblocked the entrance, placed the entrance reducer on medium, then placed a bushy branch in front of the entrance so they had to go through the obstacle to leave the hive. The purpose is to allow them to reorient when they leave the hive so they can return to the same location without issue. This worked for most of the bees, but there always seem to be a few who are dazed and confused, flying around their old stomping grounds wondering what happened to their home.

By evening they’d figured it out. Everyone had calmed down, so I opened the top entrance and added their feeders. Now Mint Hive officially lives on Colony Row.  Welcome to the neighborhood Mint Hive!

IMG_2710

Moving ‘Em Down the Hive

November 3-5, 2013

This is a bee Escape Board.  Bees enter through the hole, which faces up.

Bees enter through the hole, which faces up.

Last weekend was my last chance to add the escape board to Green Hive 1 (GH1) so I could shrink them down to 4 boxes before the consistent freezing temperatures set in.  By reducing their space, the cluster will have less area to heat, enabling them to stay warmer throughout winter.

I’ve never used an escape board, but the guy on YouTube sure made it look easy.  He inserted the escape board beneath the box to be emptied, triangle side down, and he closed off the entrance.  The bees can move down through the board, but they can’t move back up.  Within 24 hours, his top box was empty.  What nice cooperative bees!  Within 24 hours, my box was still full.  Little buggers!

Bees come down through the triangle and exit at one of the three corners.  The triangle is screened, so they can't find their way back up.

Bees come down through the triangle and exit at one of the three corners. The triangle is screened, so they can’t find their way back up.

I’d love to attribute their stubborness to superior bee intelligence.  However, my brilliant girls put me in a pickle.

  1. The weather immediately turned colder.  Can’t work the hives when it’s cold;
  2. Daylight savings time meant coming home from work in the dark.  Can’t work with bees in the dark; and
  3. Leaving a full box of honey stores unguarded by the bees is like sending the hive beetles and wax moths an open invitation to an all you can eat buffet.

The next morning, I was headed to work but decided to check the hives first.  I lifted the lid and sure enough, they crawled down to cluster with the rest of the colony.  Yay, the box was empty, but I had no time to remove it.  I had to get to work! I put the top back on and left.  Half way to work, I realized that I forgot to pull the cover back to block the top entrance.  Ugh.  Nothing is simple…ever, ever, ever.  The box was empty, but I left them a big hole to crawl right back in.  I blame middle-age and Mondays….

I couldn’t get home at lunch and I had plans that night, which meant the box would stay on for one more day (going on 72 hours now).  I called the hubster who kindly covered the top entrance when he got home.  After another night of freezing temps, I went up the following morning at the first sign of light and swiftly removed the box, replaced the escape board with the inner cover and put the top back on.  Done! Like a pro! The box went into the freezer and off I went to work.

The good news is that with every completed new task comes a bit more beekeeping knowledge, and a bit more confidence that I didn’t have before.  More baby steps, we’re just about ready for winter.  I removed feeders from Yellow Hive 2 and Blue Hive 3.  The girls are officially off of their liquid diets and will soon bee on the solid candy diet.  Sometimes a bee’s life doesn’t sound so bad.

Inspect-Move-Deter

June 21, 2013 (Day 42)

The objectives included:  Inspect GH1 for Queen, Add the Ant Deterring Additions, and Make Room for a Third Hive

For the first time, we entered the hives at dusk when the bee activity was very low.  That’s because we had to move the hives.  Temps were in the mid-80s, sun had gone down, not much breeze, just a beautiful day that turned to a beautiful evening.  Both hives were highly active around 5PM.  Our mission began around 7:30PM.

Challenge with Moving Hives

In beekeeping class, they tell you to place the hives where you plan to keep them, because moving hives is no easy feat.  When filled with bees, honey and comb, one 8-frame medium box can weigh about 40 lbs.  It has to be done in chunks and, believe me, the girls do not like to be moved around.  Bees also become easily disoriented when their hives are moved.  Even if moved only a few inches, they may have trouble finding their way home after flying out.  The rule is, anything more than 2 feet doesn’t matter.  You may as well move it 2 miles.  Of course, I’ve watched a number of YouTube videos on the subject, but since we were talking inches rather than feet, we decided to take the risk and just shift them without further measure.

We had both hives on 2 levels of cinder blocks.  Since the hives are growing in height, we decided to lower them down one level. We also decided this would be a good opportunity to move Green Hive 1 (GH1) to the left about 8 inches so we can add a third hive in the center, when that time comes.  Just for the record, I never said anything about a third hive.  That suggestion came from straight from the hubster.  Not that I haven’t been thinking it, but I wasn’t gonna say it.

Ant Deterring Additions

Ants have been a problem for several weeks now.  Every time I lift the top covers, ants scurry around the feeders and down the sides of the boxes.  Not a huge infestation, but enough to be annoying.  I also see spider mites and other creepy crawlies that are enticed by sweet sugar syrup and the smell of honey.

I’d previously posted the hive enhancements shared by members of my beekeeping association.  These enhancements consist of PVC end caps that, when filled with water or vegetable oil, form mini-moats at the base of the hives.  So unless the insects are good swimmers, they’ll likely become floaters.   Mine will be filled with water so they’re easy to fill and easy to flush out.  This will be done regularly because floaters make good stepping stones.

Thank goodness the hubster loves projects.  We made our usual 4 or 5 trips to Home Depot to get exactly what was needed for his “improved” design.  For some reason, men can never just look at another design and replicate it.  There always has to be a one-up.  This is not a complaint, just an observation.  In fact, his one-ups are pretty ingenious and have a high success rate.  He created bottom frames footed with the PVC caps and held on with heavy screws and bolts.  They’re very solid and the hives set right on top of them.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Preparing for Our Mission
I suited up, the hubster brought up the frames, and I carried up 4 quarts of sugar syrup. I started separating GH1 and realized I’d forgotten my hive tool and brush. Had to run and grab those. Hubster set two cinder blocks between the hives as a place to set the boxes. The feeder pail was completely empty. They’d gone through about 5 quarts of syrup over the last week, so they’ve been feeding like crazy.  Just before filling their buckets, the hubster asked me if I’d added the Honey B Healthy supplement ($30 a bottle!) to their feed.  I forgot AGAIN – 2nd week in a row. Ugh!

GH1 Having Queen Issues
I opened GH1 and saw a comb ladder leading to the top board.  Immediately, I ran down to the shop to get a new box and frames.  GH1 bees weren’t active. Just going about their business. I decided to inspect for the queen. I’ve been digging into this hive for over a month trying to determine whether it’s queen-right. The side frames on the top box haven’t been touched, so false alarm – no need for a third box yet. The bee population is not increasing, and may even be decreasing. I looked at every frame and saw no sign of the marked queen. Doesn’t mean there isn’t another queen in there, I just can’t find her. On a good note, there were no drone cells and no supercedure queen cells, but I didn’t see any new larvae either.  I can’t keep waiting to figure it out.  I’ve decided to purchase a new marked and mated queen and solicit help from someone in my bee club who can identify and remove the existing queen, if there is one.

Adding the Ant Deterrents

We moved GH1 in two chunks to the temporary holding place.  Hubster removed the original top blocks, shifted the bottom blocks 8 inches outward and leveled them.  We added the PVC frame and positioned the bottom board over the frame.  Perfect fit!   Just in time, since GH1 was starting to get irritable.  I assembled the rest of the hive and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

On to YH2

Unlike GH1, YH2 is growing like crazy and the girls are much more irritable and active.  We moved quickly on this one, no inspections.  I transferred the bee-filled boxes, the hubster aligned and leveled the blocks and added the frame, then I started to reassemble.  The girls were getting angrier.  That’s when the smoker burned out.  Hubster made an emergency run to reignite the smoker.  I was left with angry, darting bees.  Even in full gear, I worked faster and faster.  I decided not to wait for the smoker and just slid the boxes back on, taking down a few casualties in the process.  Hubster returned with an active smoker and a few choice words, but the deed was done.

Bees do not like it when other bees are killed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous, which is why smoke is so important to keep them settled.  The sides of YH2 were lined with bees trying to inspect the damage and clean bee parts that extruded from between the boxes.  It’s what they do, clean house, remove the dead, protect the hive.  Oh, the guilt!

End Result

I visited the hives this morning.  Both are active and GH1 bees are flying in and out of the right hive.  Good news.  The PVC caps are filled with water, ready to foil any hive robbery attempts by the ants and creepy crawlers.  I’ve determined my next action for fixing GH1’s queen issues.  And I’ve decided to install a white board checklist in the greenhouse, to be reviewed before each inspection…because lack of preparation is unacceptable.

It wasn’t pretty, but mission accomplished.

PVC caps filled with water.

PVC caps filled with water.