Tag Archive | trap

Ants, Swarms and Honey

July 23, 2016, Saturday

Wow, this summer is flying by.  Unreal.  As much as I’ve think about updating everyone on the bees, we’ve just been so stinking busy this summer.  We’ve had several more swarms since early summer, but other than that, the girls have been working hard gathering nectar and food and making honey.  There’s hasn’t been much more to tell until now.  So here’s a few bits to catch you up.

Ants

I can’t say I’ve experienced ant problems.  We add a base to the bottom of each hive with PVC cups that I keep filled with water.  They really help keep the ants  and crawly critters out of the hives.  But the other day I saw a TON of ants collecting at the base of one hive.

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

Base frame with ant-deterring PVC cups that we keep filled with water.

I thought of several options for removing them, but most are not good for the bees.  What I came up with was cinnamon.  I added several tablespoons of cinnamon to an old spice bottle and shook the cinnamon over the ants and around the base of the hive on the ground and on the cinder blocks.  Worked like a charm.  They picked up and moved someplace else that’s not around my hives.

Swarms

I received a frantic call from my neighbor this morning…one of those “your bees are swarming!” calls.  Ugh.  I ran out and watched a large swarm of bees buzzing their usual 30+ feet up into a pine trees.  I ran to my hives to see if I could tell which hive was the culprit.  No signs whatsoever, just business as usual.  Usually they all go nuts when one of the hives swarms.  But they were quietly going about their business.  So I have to wonder if it came from one of my hives, or maybe it was one of my swarms still looking for a place to live.  To bee honest, I’m not sure how long swarms hang around before they find refuge or meet their demise.

Anyway, I had to do something, so I made a quickie swarm trap, as follows:

  • I grabbed a copier box and cut a small hole in the bottom for an entrance.
  • Added one frame of old comb and one frame of fresh foundation.
  • Lined the inside with lemongrass essential oil.
  • Added the lid and lined the outside of the entrance with lemongrass oil.
  • Taped every possible opening to make it secure and ensure the entrance was the only place where they could come and go.
  • Then found the hubster’s old ladder, climbed the tree and placed it between some strong branches and secured with cable ties.  Not too bad, really.

Do I think it will work.  Heck no, but I have a better chance than not doing anything at all.  So we shall see.
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Honey

On the honey front, I’ve collected about 5 or 6 frames and plan to collect more this weekend.  They’ve produced lots of honey, but still a lot of capping to do.  Unlike past years, I’m collecting as I go then will extract around Labor Day weekend.

New Addition

One last thing, I have to introduce Pink Hive, our newest addition to the apiary.  Pink Hive is a split from Purple Hive, and next week I’ll be checking to make sure we have a good laying queen.  Purple Hive is my strongest hive, the one with the Pennsylvania queen.  Purple Hive is one that swarmed recently.  They are mite-resistant bees, they populate like crazy, make lots of honey, overwintered like a charm, and until now, haven’t swarmed.  Plus, they’re gentle to work with.  Polar opposite of my Texas queens.  I bought my queen from Log Cabin Bee Farm.  The mated queens aren’t cheap, but they are top quality and worth every penny.  You only need one good hive to get more hives going.  My goal is to get all of my hives transitioned to this amazing PA stock.
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So there you go, the latest and greatest.  The girls are doing great.  At least they’re getting their swarming out of the way before it’s too late in the season.  They still have time to build back up for winter.  Fingers crossed for a good honey harvest!  Happy summer everyone!

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Yellow Hive is Back!

June 7, 2015

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You may recall that we lost Yellow Hive over the winter.  The apiary just isn’t complete without all 5 hives going at once.  Blue Hive was looking strong, so two weekends ago ((May 24th) I transferred some of their honey, nectar and brood frames to Yellow Hive, along with some healthy looking queen cells, and of course some bees.  I gave them sugar syrup w/ my homemade Honey B Healthy and stood back to see if the split would take.

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I didn’t post this sooner for fear of jinxing them.  I’m very superstitious like that. They started slow, but now activity in Yellow Hive is picking up.  Yay!  The weather has been cool and wet, so once the sun comes back out and things dry out, I’ll give them a look to see whether a queen has emerged and started laying yet.

Expecting a Swarm

Any day now I’m anticipating that Blue Hive will swarm.  I know that because I’ve seen queen cells and a virgin queen romping around.  There is space in the brood chamber for laying, but when they decide to go, they’ll go.  Fingers and toes are crossed that they’ll split themselves and will make a bee-line for the swarm trap.  I continue to add lemongrass oil to the entrance to lure them in.  Then I’ll collect them and add them to a new hive.

Preparing for the Best

Speaking of new hives, the hubster and I have had discussions about the number of hives I can add to my collection.  He insists that 5 is enough.  Yes dear, 5 is a good number.  However, if I d happen to catch a swarm, then they need to go somewhere, so just incase they decide to cooperate (a rarity) I’m preparing hives 6 and 7….just incase.  After all, I couldn’t possibly let them go homeless!

Watching the Garden Grow

We also planted the garden two weekends ago.  Another yay!  And with the recent rain, they’re popping up nicely.  We’ll bee caging tomatoes today, and even my cucumbers are popping up from seeds that I salvaged from last year’s cucumbers, which were crazy prolific.

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The major nectar flow is dying down, but there’s still plenty of flowers and color coming up.  The wildflowers will be out soon.  The bees are bringing in the honey.  Boxes are heavy and filling fast.

Tis a happy time of year.

 

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!

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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 1 (Late Summer Swarm)

Sunday, August 17, 2014 (10:30 AM)

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Beekeepers have lots of “rules of thumb” to keep us at least one step ahead of the little buggers. The bees, however, don’t know or care about our rules. The bees have their own rule. They do what they want to do, when they want to do it. That’s their rule.

The past month has been uneventful at BooBee Apiary. It’s been nice. Everyone minding their own beeswax, collecting nectar and pollen and working hard to make us honey while we gather and enjoy garden veggies and plan out our pending honey harvest.

The possibility of swarms hadn’t entered my mind since June. I thought we were done with swarms, at least til next spring. Supposedly, bees swarm for two reasons:

  • They run out of room, and/or
  • Bad ventilation.

I’ve been adding new boxes, ensuring they have space, and I’ve added vented spacers to help air circulation and provide more entrances.

We’re now in August – the bees should bee switching their focus from reproduction to gathering stores for winter. The girls kick the male bees (drones) out of the hives, the workers start packing comb with honey, and the rapid growth subsides. So swarming this late in the year is not so common.

What’s more, swarming of a first year hive is an even more rare occasion.  It’s those over-wintered, well-seasoned hives you have to worry about.

Think Again

I don’t do many full inspections unless outside activity indicates a problem. Pink Hive was crowded, and I’d just given them a fresh box with new foundation, just above the brood and below the stores. I closed them up and we went camping for four days.

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Sunday we returned, tired and smelling of campfire. I had just finished my shower when the hubster came up and said my bees had swarmed. “Say what???”.

It was Pink Hive – a June split from Blue Hive. The queen originated from a large swarm cell I had placed in with the split. I came outside just in time to see the flurry of activity that remained in front of the hive. I thought at first that the hubster was mistaking orientation flights for a swarm, until he pointed 30 feet up into the neighbor’s pine tree. There hung a massive cluster of bees, every bit as large as our first swarm back in June. Ugh.

The Failed Attempt

The hubster grabbed the step ladder and a bucket conduit contraption. He suited up and climbed the ladder. First time, the bees were too high and he couldn’t reach them. We added another piece of conduit and extended up just beneath them. He could barely reach, but still, he positioned the bucket as best he could beneath the cluster and gave the bucket an upward shove. Half the bees fell into the bucket, I pulled the lid on with the rope, and the hubster came flying down off the ladder yelling “GO, GO!!!”. The bucket remained in the tree, and the girls were not happy!

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I thought the lid only partially covered the bucket opening. We couldn’t see because the bucket was 30 feet up, but we thought the bees could easily fly out and back to their cluster. In the meantime, we hung a swarm trap, scented with lemongrass oil, then we headed out for Sunday errands.

Several hours later, the half cluster hung in the same location. The hubster pulled down the conduit, and before it even reached the ground, I could see a large mass of bees were still in the bucket. I yelled and we prepared to run, but nothing happened when it hit the ground. A mass of bees spilled out, limp on the ground with a few live bees still fluttering through the remains. The lid had closed tighter than we thought and the bees had asphyxiated and were wet with condensation. I felt sick. I didn’t look for a queen. Swarms can have multiple queens, and I assumed the large cluster above still had at a queen to cling to.

The cluster remained through the next morning and were gone when we returned from work that day. Another irretrievable swarm.

I had made some homemade swarm traps, so as a last stitch effort, I applied some lemongrass oil, inserted a frame of fresh foundation, and we lured it up into the tree, just a few feet beneath the swarm.  No luck, but worth the try.

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Another Valuable Lesson Learned

What can I say…another lesson of what not to do. I am convinced that a beekeeper’s best advantage is experience. Hands down, good beekeeping comes with experience. Our experience now includes 2 unsuccessful swarm retrievals, and more fatalities than I care to think about. Now we stand back and rethink our strategies, like keeping the swarm traps in place; fashioning a more sturdy conduit contraption; inspecting more often. Though our best lesson is this: if a swarm is unreachable, if they can’t be retrieved safely and assuredly, let them go. Better to do it right than muck it up.

Our First Swarm – The Final Chapter

May 30, 2014 (Friday)

 

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After 2 days, I knew the girls had left for good. Sad but true. I always hear about beekeepers capturing lots and lots of swarms. I never hear about the swarms that leave for good.  I wonder if that happens more or less than the stories with happy endings?

I consulted my beekeeping club to find out how I can avoid another disappointing loss down the road. The consensus was that some swarms just go too high, to places you can’t possibly get to. That’s what my girls did, and it seems like most beekeepers just accept the loss and move on.  It’s another standard part of beekeeping.

But what if we hadn’t been home? How would I have known they swarmed?  The answer to that question is simply the reduction in bee traffic, which I confess is quite noticeable. Before, the bees were piling up at the entrance, trying to get in and out.  Now they seem less congested, more comfortable and efficient.  Like the wheel has been oiled and is turning much smoother now.

But what can be done to keep them from flying off?  Why didn’t they opt for the bait traps?  Did they find another home?

I’m sure the little traitors found another home somewhere…probably in another beekeeper’s hive.  As for keeping them around next time and whether or not bait hives work, here’s an interesting theory that makes sense.

Bees know well ahead of time that they are going to swarm.  That’s no secret.  But consider this -scout bees are actually forager bees. During their flights out looking for pollen and nectar sources, they are simultaneously scoping out the local scene to determine a good potential home for their pending swarm. So the bees already have a good idea of where they will relocate before the swarm even occurs. If this is true, then a bait hive is virtually useless after the swarm has already occurred.  However, if the bait hive is positioned nearby (at least 8 feet high) several days or weeks before the swarm occurs, then there’s a chance it might work.

There’s also a chance that you might catch your neighbor’s swarming bees. That’s ok too. All is fair in love and beekeeping…as long as you don’t tell your neighbor.

I’d certainly be interested to hear some swarm stories. How have swarms been captured from impossible places, like 40 ft tree branches? How often are swarms missed? Any success using bait hives?  There are probably as many scenarios as there are beekeepers, and there’s no better way to learn.  So let’s hear it!

Our First Swarm – Part 2

May 25, 2014 (Sunday)


Our first swarm and we lost our bees. I was so upset.  The hubster stayed outside and was piecing together the conduit contraption that he rushed out to buy. If I’d kept watch, as I’d been tasked to do, I would have seen where they went, but in the heat of the moment I ran off to seek a last resort and returned to an empty branch and no bees.

I went upstairs to post a message to my bee club when the hubster yelled for me to come back outside, “hurry”! I ran like the wind and saw the cloud of bees erupting from above the trees, just a few feet below their original site.  They’d settled behind some bushes where we couldn’t see them.

This time we sprang into action and began work on a swarm trap. Using an old computer box, I inserted one frame of brood comb and used some nails to tack it in place.

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We taped the lid closed and carefully taped every visible seam and opening. One hole was left open as the entrance. I added several drops of lemongrass oil at the entrance as the lure. We then adhered the box to the top of a ladder and set it below the swarm’s location, just outside the dense shrubs. Then we watched and waited.

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We sat outside and wheels kept turning and turning.  I watched YouTube videos on how to make swarm traps, and the hubster was thinking about how to hoist the bait trap higher in the tree and closer to the swarm. I knew the lightbulb came on when he jumped up and ran into the workshop.  Ten minutes later, he emerged with another contraption. A platform piece of wood tied at the corners with rope and attached to a long piece of rope that was weighted at the end with some heavy metal hardware.

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After watching the Fat Bee Man make a swarm trap from a nuc, I ran to retrieve my nuc. Two bait traps have gotta be better than one. Using a Q-tip, I applied a ring of lemongrass oil around the inside of the box and added 5 new foundation frames. The hubster nailed on a flat plywood cover, and I added the entrance reducer and bottom board.

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The hubster finally managed to hoist the rope over a high branch.We adhered the nuc to the platform, the began lifting it higher and higher, til it reached bee height.

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We tied the rope to our well pump.  Now we had two boo bee traps!

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With renewed hope, we returned to the patio where we watched and waited, as though the girls would simply emerge and file themselves neatly into one of our traps. Of course that didn’t happen. And so, with another busy day gone to the bees, we wait and we hope…

Mice, Mold and Another Massacre (or two)

October 20, 2013 – Fall Inspection and Mouse Guard Installs

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FINALLY! My bee supplier scored a shipment of Brushy Mountain mouse guards for the hives. I’ve been waiting to install the mouse guards for three weeks now, since the farmers have been cutting down the corn and harvesting the fields. That means the mice are exposed and seeking refuge in … beehives? Of all places, I know, mice smell the honey, and hives are warm. During the winter the bees are busy clustering and the mice are left to do a tremendous amount of damage to the frames, honey and comb. That’s why we need mouse guards. You can make homemade mouse guards out of wire mesh and other hardware, but I like the Brushy Mountain guards because they’re sized for 8 frame hives, they’re easy to install, they’re sturdy enough to use again next year and the year after, and the things have been selling out for weeks, so I consider that a good testament that they work.

Good Day for an Inspection!

The weather has been consistently wet and cloudy and cold and/or windy. The girls haven’t been out much, so I was excited to see them darting around the hives this morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day, in the low 70s, slightly breezy. I haven’t inspected the girls in several weeks, plus I wanted to replace the hive beetle traps. I’ve seen hive beetles in all three hives. Thankfully the girls are strong and able to guard themselves well against mice and beetles. It’s also getting cold, so I’m hoping this is a close to final inspection before the freezing overnight temperatures begin.

I started with Green Hive 1 (GH1). They’ve always been my strongest hive. The top three boxes are filled with stores…yay!  I considered adding a bee escape board to clear out the top box and consolidate the hive down to 4 boxes, but then I’d end up having to freeze the top box of capped sugar syrup.  I decided to let them continue caring for it since they’re doing such a fine job.  Everything looked good.  They have new hive beetle traps, and 2:1 feed. Easy peasy. I closed them up and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

YH2 has 2 full boxes of stores. I didn’t see brood, but then I didn’t check every frame.   YH2 is like a propolis factory.  They seal the heck out of everything.  And they’re nosy to boot, which makes my job much harder.  I don’t dig much because there’s always risk of damaging the queen, and this time of year that’s the last thing I want to do.  Sure, they can make another queen, but the girls have kicked out all the drones, so she likely won’t be able to mate.  I’m still new at this beekeeping thing. I leave a lot to instincts, common sense and high hopes. They look healthy, numbers are good, they’re defending themselves, stores are strong, no red flags. Works for me.

The “Not So Happy” Dance

While GH1 goes about their business, letting me get in and get out fairly quickly, YH2 bees are more involved.  They guard well, which is good.  They’re also smart.  How do I know they’re smart?  Because they know exactly where to find the opening in the bottom of my pants leg.  There’s nothing like holding a 50 lb box of bees and feeling a bee or two flying around in your pants.  That part is actually much worse than the sting itself.   Thanks to YH2, I have one sting on the front of my thigh, one on my ankle, and one on the back side of my other inner thigh.  If only they’d stay down inside the hives, the inspection would go so much smoother with less casualties.  I’ll be itching in the morning.

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YH2 Meets Beezilla…again

I pulled a center frame from the bottom box. Always a risk since the queen tends to hang in this area. No brood, mostly stores and empty cells. I managed to drop the frame down carefully, but then I pushed the frames together and caught a few bees in between. The buzz was intense and they rose up and out of the hive in a large mass where the mini massacre had just occurred. Beezilla is at it again… I can only hope that I didn’t harm the queen.  I’m always amazed at how emotionally distressed they become when a bee is…well…smooshed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous and nothing will cause a mass of bees to start buzzing around faster than killing one of their own.

I gave my apologies and put YH2 back together with new beetle traps and 2:1 syrup.  On to Blue Hive3 (BH3).

BH3 – My Pride and Joy

I never truly felt like a beekeeper until I split my first hive.  Blue Hive 3 has been an ongoing experiment, a happy accident.  I’m so happy with how they’ve progressed. Lots of bees, decent stores (although they still hadn’t filled in the end frames so I did some rearranging), they guard themselves well, everyone is happy and healthy, no more robbing.  I’m not moving them to a nuc.  They’ve filled out their two 8-frame boxes quite well.  I have faith in my little hive.  We’ll just have to wait and see how they do.

BH3 is also interesting because these bees are very dark, compared to my other bees.  I’m hoping for some cross breeding in the spring because that makes for a hardier stock.

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Woo hoo! Lots of active, healthy young bees in BH3.

Mold in the Hives

Its not bad enough that we’re battling mice and insects.  I’ve noticed green mold forming between BH3’s inner cover and the top cover.  A result of moisture rising from the sugar syrup and not enough ventilation up top to release it. I cleaned the inner cover and top cover with vinegar to help kill the mold, and I added 1-3/4 inch blocks of 2″x4″ wood to raise the top cover and create some ventilation. Let’s hope that works. I added a few hive beetle traps and 2:1 syrup and closed them up!

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Green mold forming on the inner cover.

Installing the Mouse Guards

Oh, this was fun.  I thought the mouse guards would fit over the entrance reducers.  Wrong!  They REPLACE the entrance reducers.  This meant removing entrance reducers, which are so tight and well propolised in GH1 and YH2 that I spent over a hour digging them out with my hive tool.  BH3’s entrance never fit right anyway, so they were easy.  I was of course dressed in full garb.  The hubster was standing by with the drillI and screw in hand, ready to move in and screw them down, but by the time I finished, the girls were in a frenzy.  When I removed the entrance reducers, they poured out in droves.  The hubster didn’t stand a chance, and God forbid he actually suit up for the occasion.  Nope, I was left to size the mouse guards and drill them in myself, which I wasn’t prepared to do.

You know those action thrillers where hoards of people are try to escape before the walls close in, and for the pure sake of gore, a dozen people are smooshed with heads sticking out and feet hanging down?  Yep, this installation was straight out of a bee horror flick.  The hubster is a pro at drilling in screws.  I, on the other hand, had to be coached from the sidelines.  Those stupid little screws just would not stay on the end of the drill, and working under pressure did not help.  But once I got it, I managed to knock the other two quickly.   Of course, YH2 experienced the most trauma and everyone in the hive had to come out and see what the fuss was about.

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YH2 Not Happy with Beezilla

The guards in now in place. Yay! Although I didn’t see any signs of mice, I placed the mite boards in GH1 and YH2 to check for droppings, just to be safe.  Still some important winter decisions to make and research to be done, but so far so good. Ever forward!

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BH3 using their new guarded entrance