Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beginning Our 5th Year of Beekeeping and Just Collected Our First Swarm!

Five years ago this May we acquired two nucleus hives from a beekeeper in Fort Valley who has since retired. We can never thank Frank enough for helping us get a good start with this fascinating hobby. He and our square dancing buddy, Gordon, a professional beekeeper who once had 500 hives taught us what to do, rescued us when we had queen problems, and were always there with a wise word to the ignorant.

Today a neighbor knocked on our door and told us he had a swarm on a tree in his yard, would we like to come and get it? Would we! Absolutely! So we gathered up what we thought we'd need and drove down the road about a mile to his backyard where a nice little swarm was gathered in an easy to capture spot on a small lilac tree.

We didn't quite do this right, but it all worked out. The swarm was nicely collected wrapped around several small branches of the tree. We clipped the ends of the branches leaving enough for a hand hold on either end and figured we could just cut the remaining branch and lower the intact swarm into the styrofoam box we brought. Not that easy. When we clipped the branch a large portion of the bee ball dropped into the grass. Oops -- Hmm...should have put the box under the swarm.

So what to do next? We picked the branch up with the remaining bees and put it in the box. Then we tipped the box on the side next to the large pile of bees and gently used the lid to move them into the box. At that point we noticed the bees were marching into the box without being urged indicating the queen was in there. They marched in like good little soldiers following their general. So we just stood and watched for about five minutes until most of the bees were in the box.

Meanwhile, back on the branch a significant portion of bees were still congregating. So we clipped again, but this time holding the box right under the branch and lowering the bees gently in. Then we put on the cover and figured the remaining bees would return to the original hive. We came home, put together a 9-frame box with drawn comb and a frame of capped honey and put a second empty bee box on top. Then we lay the branches in the empty top on top of the frames and shook the remaining bees into the box. The bees outside started congregating on the landing board and shaking their rear ends. We presume that helps to spread the queen's pheromone and let the colony members outside smell where she is. Lots of bees started walking into the box. I went out at dusk to put an entrance reducer on to make the doorway smaller and easier to defend and now the girls have a great new home and will hopefully choose to stay. We'll be watching the hive for a few days to see what happens. But drawn comb is a real incentive for them to take up permanent residence.

Our neighbor said there used to be a beekeeper back behind his property so we are guessing this is a feral colony from his bee yard. We are thrilled since the bear demolished one of our hives. We are praising God tonight and thanking all the patron saints of beekeepers for this sweet providential rescue.

And now I only need to do one more thing --  take a jar of honey to our kind neighbor Michael. 

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