June 30, 2015

What a wild weekend!

I don't even know where to begin!

Last week was so rainy and miserable (I think it actually rained all week.... a double curse and you'll see why!) So this weekend I tried to play catch up! Saturday I really only managed to clean out the chicken coop before it stormed again all day but Sunday was nice enough to be outside!  I started the day with cooking up some s'mores pancakes for the family (recipe to come!) then the clouds finally parted and I headed outside to do a bit of work.

I didn't really have any massive plans, just some gardening, inspecting my bee hives and possibly giving my horse a workout to test out his freshly trimmed feet that got done in the rain on Saturday (those farriers are a tough bunch!).

While I was in the garden helping my mum relocate some currant bushed to the new garden (so the chickens can stop feasting on the leaves....) we heard a pretty strange sound over by the house.... lots of buzzing. Looking over we saw a few THOUSAND bees flying en masse from the hive.

Not good.

Turns out pretty much everything that could have happened for that hive to want to swarm... did. The dandelion "flow" just ended, the weather had been rainy keeping them all in the hive for a few days making them think it was extra crowded, and the final nail in the casket.... I hadn't checked them in over a week. My bad.

So I watched $220 fly away. Crap.

Then I saw them hanging around a tree just at the edge of an area we had recently cleared to move the chicken coop to.


I called my "bee mentor" from our newly formed local beekeepers association and got together some necessary items to catch a swarm!

Before Tim showed up I laid a tarp under where the swarm had finally settled (thankfully it was only a bout two meters off the ground, this could have been a lot worse!), and brought out a pair of tree nippers, a pair of supers, one empty and one full of frames, a lid and a bottom.

Tim arrived, followed shortly by Susan (another member of the club who has had bees for a year now) and we got to work.

Turns out that capturing a swarm isn't as hard as I'd feared. We positioned the two supers (one full of frames on the bottom, the empty one on top) on the tarp under the swarm and Tim climbed up a ladder to slowly cut branches until he had a handful of small sticks with a few hundred bees attached to it (the Queen should be somewhere in the middle of the bees so it was crucial that they stay as undisturbed as possible so the Queen ended up in the hive!). I took the bee covered sticks from Tim and carefully laid the works on top of the frames. We lidded it and ratchet strapped the bottom, supers and lid all together (to be easier to move later)... and that's it!

The only other important piece of material I haven't mentioned yet is the queen excluder. Normally when you see a hive the queen excluder goes on top of the brood super (or supers if you have two)... but in the case of this swarm, the excluder was on the bottom, between the bottom board and the bottom of the bottom super. This means that all the worker and drone bees could come and go but the Queen was stuck. The reason for this is that the Queen might not be happy yet with this new location, so she needs a bit of time to get used to her new home. That's assuming she's in there! I went back after the lid was on a few hours later and saw that bees were coming and going just like they do with my other hives... She's in there!

After all that I now have three hives! One very strong one and two that are a little smaller (one with a bunch of brood and starting in on honey production, the other... thanks to Susan has one frame of honey, one frame of brood combs drawn but empty.... but nothing else! That's what you get for swarming right before the honey flow!!)

I'm going to be leaving original hive alone for a couple more days then I'll be getting in there to look for a Queen. I think I saw my original marked Queen in the new hive so I have to make sure that there is another Queen in her place in my old hive. I have spread the brood out in both of my original hives and given them something to think about in these last couple weeks leading up to the honey flow.

I learned a very important lesson in all this though! You can't procrastinate on a farm. When you need to get into your hive, get in there before they swarm! When you need to fix the fence, mend it before the livestock gets on the road!

photo borrowed from mainbee.com which is actually a BRILLIANT resource for swarm capture!!

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