• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

I'm buzzing...

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
After ten years with no bees due to severe allergies, this afternoon I just caught a lovely prime swarm

My dad heard them in the garden just before the balled up in a tree. He lost track of them, and we spent nearly an hour trying to find where they had settled. As always, they were high up in a horribly inaccessible tangle of branches. Two hours later we had sufficiently cleared the undergrowth to get a tall step ladder near, we had a rope over the branch and managed to wrangle the swarm close enough to the top of the ladder to shake them into a bucket. First attempt got about 90% of them, which were transferred into a swarm trap (I don't have a hive that is quite ready for them yet!). We went back and got the rest by trimming the branch into the bucket.

I'm pretty confident we got the queen and they seemed pretty settled in the box at dusk. Fingers crossed they will still be there in the morning.

No pictures today as all the action was way out of reach. I tried to estimate it - at least 18ft up, possibly more like 20ft.

Mike

(NB - My allergy to stings was treated by the lovely doctors at Addenbrooks Hospital, Cambridge. Think I will owe them a jar of honey.)
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Forgot to add last night...

The bees appear to have come from a very long established colony living in a nearby roof. They are small bodied and very dark in colour. These are the bees I've really wanted to get hold of for ages - I suspect they have great genetics and have reliably thrown out swarms each summer that we have lived in the house. I hope to go treatment free, so getting good stock at the start is a real bonus. So far they appear to be well natured as well.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mixed progress...

Went to check on them today after a report that they were clustering on the front of the hive. Basically the hive box was empty and all the bees were hanging swarmwise from the front. I'm confident that the queen went into the box originally, so it looks like she took a walk. I scooped up what bees I could and observed them for half an hour. They seemed settled and not trying to ball on the front again. Fingers crossed.

I didn't spot the queen, but they were really docile and balling up so I presume she is present.

REALLY REALLY GOOD NEWS.... I got stung and didn't have any kind of reaction. My last sting was the one that put me in hospital so I'm really pleased to have got it out of the way. Now I can relax about it.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Went back up just now.

The number of bees outside the hive had shrunk and they had made a much smaller ball by the entrance, so I suspect that I have got the queen in the box again. I scooped up the ball that was there and dumped them back inside. I also made the entrance larger as I think there was a bit of a traffic jam!
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another follow up... I looked at them again about an hour after closing up for the night last night. They had all retreated into the box, including the stragglers who had been down tangled in the ivy and undergrowth. Looking much better.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Pie
Posts: 1684
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
121
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I hope they settle in your box. Hurry up on the forever home!
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cheers Julia. I wasn't able to get up there today, but will tomorrow. They have plenty of room in the swarm trap for now - 12 top bars to draw out - and I'll have a bit more time once my classes go on study leave for their exams after the weekend to get a full size hive built.

When I get up there I'll take a quick peak and try and correct any early cross combing before they get carried away.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well, the bees are still here in their box. I had a peek, but there is no sign of any wax being built, although they are definitely out flying and festooning from the bars. Temperament is still very gentle.

I've decided to feed them some syrup. We are in for a few days of miserable wet and windy weather here, and the lack of comb makes me suspect that they are hungry. I read somewhere that a brood box needs 8kg worth of honey to draw out comb for and I don't mind giving them a bit of a kick start.

I'm trying a new (to me) delivery method - using a sandwich bag filled with syrup and tied up. Lay the bag in a suitable space in the hive and pierce the top with some small holes. The syrup will seep out slowly without drowning bees.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Been flat out busy with work (it is silly season for exams here - lots of worried kids wanting help) but managed to take a peak in my new hive yesterday. I didn't disturb their new comb, just took a peak in the box. They are coming on nicely - building out some comb and pretty active.

I looked in without any protection today - they were very chilled out at their box being opened. They have been in the box for two weeks now, so I'm pretty pleased with how they are doing.

I still need to go in properly and adjust their comb alignment, as well as transfer them to a full size hive body from the swarm trap. That now looks like a job for saturday.

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Some photos

Two are of my swarm's progress. The other is of a new swarm that just moved into the wall of my parents house - I'll be starting a trap out on them next week.
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Got another peak in the hive yesterday - they are doing well

I managed to get the phone right down in the hive body, so you can see where they are building relative to the bars. Not quite straight, but better than I expected as there are no comb guides in there. I'll be straightening them out when I move them into their new hive body.

I'm impressed at how much more comb they managed to build in just 3 days.
10402455_10152195926203042_4605891947181831453_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 10402455_10152195926203042_4605891947181831453_n.jpg]
 
Julia Winter
steward
Pie
Posts: 1684
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
121
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How do you straighten the comb out? I can see how you could detach it, but how do you reattach it correctly?
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Right, well we straightened them out today.

These guys are unbelievably docile! I was chopping into their comb and didn't get so much as a single angry flyby.

I was hoping not to need to detach the comb from the bars, but that turned out not to be quite possible. I brushed bees off a section of comb at a time and then used hair clips, cable tied to the bars, to clip them back on in the correct alignment. The bees should see this as damaged combs and rebuild the wax securely to the bars, given a few weeks. This is essentially the technique used when rescuing bees in a cutout.

The queen appears to have just started laying - eggs covering almost every frame and the bees are bringing plenty of pollen now, but there is no larvae evident yet. This tells me it must have been a cast swarm (rather than a prime swarm) with a virgin queen. There are a few cells with multiple eggs, but on the whole she is laying singles in a good pattern.

I'll check them again in a few days to see how they are getting on with their new alignment.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmmm... something has gone wrong.

I checked these bees again a couple of days ago, and now I can't see any capped brood or a hint of eggs. I'm no suspicious that I had laying workers instead of a queen? I certainly saw some cells with multiple eggs in them. This colony now seems to be limping along, after a good strong initial spell.

Any thoughts?

I was thinking that transferring some eggs to them might give them a chance to raise a new queen, but I don't have another colony with eggs available. I suspect that the swarm had a virgin queen who ran in to trouble mating - we certainly had a spell of cooler weather at just the wrong time for her.

Right now I have:

Swarm 1 - Capture around 1 month ago. Mid sized caste swarm (virgin queen), built some initial honeycomb quickly but then stagnated and no capped brood has appeared. Suspect laying workers and/or a dead queen.

Swarm 2 - Captured a week ago. Tiny tiny swarm that were sitting on grass in the rain for a week before I collected them. Not confident that they will do anything, or that the queen will be healthy enough to mate.

Swarm 3 - MASSIVE prime swarm, captured 2 days ago. Weighed in at 2.4kg of bees, biggest swarm I've seen. They have been in their top bar hive since Sunday morning and seem to be happy. I slipped a couple of pieces of small but straight comb in with them to give them a hint what direction to build in.

What would you do to salvage the weak colonies here?
 
David Livingston
steward
Pie
Posts: 2598
Location: Anjou ,France
102
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Have you thought of combining the first two ?

David
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
45
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, but the problem I can see is that
  • laying workers in the first hive may kill the queen in the second
  • I've seen no evidence of wax building, let alone a laying queen, in the second colony


  • I've never had to deal with laying workers before - from what I remember you can tip all the bees out away from the hive. The flying bees will find their way back but the laying workers won't?
     
    David Livingston
    steward
    Pie
    Posts: 2598
    Location: Anjou ,France
    102
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Never heard of that one about laying workers Queens can fly why not laying workers?
    I was under the impression that a queens scent would supress the laying behavior
    I could be wrong about that though .
    What have you got to loose if they are both going down the pan ?

    David
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    45
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Some people suggest shaking out the bees 100 feet or so away from the hive. The idea here is the laying workers are the young nurse bees and by shaking them out they will not find their way home since they have never been out of the hive. This may or may not work.
     
    David Livingston
    steward
    Pie
    Posts: 2598
    Location: Anjou ,France
    102
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    This may or not work ...... says it all really . If you combine the hives in such away that the hive with the laying workers has to fly to the hive with the queen, being in a queen right hive may inhibit the laying worker syndrome ? Just an idea .If they are nurse bees they need a queen her pheranomes should normally inhibit egg laying behavior.

    David
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    45
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    So lets talk the process through.

    They are both in top bar hives and bars should be interchangeable. The very small, weak colony is in a proper full sized top bar hive, the one with the potentially laying workers (or at least a failed queen) is in a 10 bar swarm trap. I want the final colony to end up in the large box.

  • At night seal the swarm trap and move it 100m away.
  • Move the full sized hive (with weak swarm) into it's old spot.
  • Open the swarm trap and shake out all bees from comb and the box
  • Move the comb into the top bar hive at the old location with the weak swarm


  • Then hope that the pheromones from the swarm queen over-ride the laying workers as they and the flying bees return to the old comb in the new box.

    My other thought is to wait a few weeks and see what happens. We are about to get a really major honey flow here (the lime trees/bass) and they might draw out some more comb for me which I can use elsewhere if nothing else. I have a trapout to start this week and some bars of comb would be nice to help it along.
     
    David Livingston
    steward
    Pie
    Posts: 2598
    Location: Anjou ,France
    102
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    What type of top bar hive is this?
    Is it a Phil chandler type with entrance holes at each end ?
    You could transfer both hives into the same box.
    Each with a different enterance then remove the barrier between them replace it with a paper one gradually the paper one with degrage and the swarms combine .
    Just a thought
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    45
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Yeah, not a bad alternative.

    I'm tending to think that I'll just leave them alone and see what happens. I've got the really bumper swarm that should charge along nicely - I don't mind the odd loss now that I have a good strong hive. My plan is to go treatment free so there isn't much point molly-coddling them.

    Another alternative - pinch the comb from the first colony, shake the bees off and give them to the massive swarm. They'll give the new swarm a guide to build straight comb from , along with some extra space for quick egg laying and build up.

    I'd leave merge the bees from the two week swarms and give them one good piece of comb. If they make it, great - if not they gave the strong hive a nice boost.
     
    • Post Reply
    • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic