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While out checking my apiary Friday, I noticed a great deal of bee activity around one of my pallets of hives. I could also hear the dull buzzy roar of a swarm of bees somewhere close to me. I looked around and found a very nice size swarm of honey bees in a black berry bush thicket. I had been working on putting out our swarm traps but the wife had just painted them and they were still drying from Friday. I rushed back to the house, I grabbed one that seemed to be the most dried, put 5 frames of drawn out comb and an empty frame into the trap, saturated a cotton ball with lemon grass oil and swabbed the entrance to the trap, the tops of the frames and threw the cotton ball inside the swarm trap. It DID smell rather nice I must say. I loaded the swarm trap into the back of the Kubota RTVX and off I went to place the trap as you can see by the pictures I was a bit limited for space so I leaned the trap against the black berry thicket where the swarm had landed in a small sappling. I gently shook some bees off of the swarm in the sappling so they would fall onto the side of the swarm trap where the entrance slot is. I quick prayer and off I went tending to other apiary chores, followed by grass mowing in my apiary (in which I am shamefully behind with). I came back a few hours later and they were pretty much all on or clinging to the trap box but had not all gone in. The final pictures showing the little "bee bridge" going into the entrance slot was the next morning on Saturday. They had all pretty much gone inside the box and a NICE honey bee hum was emitting from the box. As of this morning I went to check on them and add a brick to the trap box lid due to thunderstorms on the way. They were still inside humming away. I will leave them there for a week or two and allow the queen to lay brood and the bees to clean up the comb. Once they are well establish in the swarm trap, I will then cover the entrance slot and move them to where I will put them into a double deep nucleus colony for further development. Possibly split them later down the road. Enjoy the pics!
It has been a good while since I have posted in the Apiary section. I have been VERY busy in my apiary and just have not had the time to post. In late February I planted about 5 acres of various honey bee friendly wild flowers mixed with Sainfoin & Yellow Sweet Clover. In late March I had a local farmer plant 20 acres of Sainfoin in one of our pastures. Still waiting for the coop to bring the lime trucks as the pasture needs about 3 tons+ to the acre of lime to reach the soil pH of 8.0. I will have to call them again. Last season we reached a high of 51 hives. Going into the Fall we began losing a few hives here and there in spite of treating our hives with oxalic acid vapor. I treated them again last November and again in December yet the hive losses got worse. We lost almost half. In early Spring the hives began building up really nice and had very large populations and then in early March I again treated them with oxalic acid vapor. They continued to do well until about 10 days later I treated them prophylactically with methol for tracheal mites. Almost immediately it seemed like the hives collapsed. I initially thought it was the menthol so I removed it after the second day. The hives did not recover. Long story short we lost EVERY hive with the exception of 1 by the end of this May. In the 3rd week of April I contacted a commercial beekeeper and bought 6 migratory pallets (36 double deep hives) of commercial production double deep bee hives. I immediately split out 2 frames of brood and 2 frames of honey/pollen to build 36 5 frame nucleus colonies to which I added 1 empty frame of drawn out comb or foundation. I ordered queens to queen all of the nucleus colonies and of the 36, 31 made it and I combined the 5 with other nucs. In early May I purchased locally 6 nucleus colonies of "treatment free" bees to add to the genetics in the apiary. In the 3rd week in May, I again grafted 2 frames of brood and 2 frames of honey/pollen to build another 36 nucleus colonies and added queens. Yesterday I went through all of the hives with the exception of the most recent nucs to ensure they had a queen. Talk about a LONG, HOT, SWEATY day!!!!! I had 14 queens left over from the order of 20 so I used these to build 6 two frame "queen castle" hives. Today or tomorrow I will go through the newest 36 nucs to ensure all are queen right and use these queens if needed, otherwise I will put them in the "queen castle" hive which require only 1 frame of brood and 1 frame of honey/pollen. Altogether we are sitting at 125 hives if my count is correct. The wife and I have been working our butts off. She likes to paint so she has been painting hive boxes & related woodware while I am working the hives & keep the grass cut and trimmed in the Apiary. We have 100 more nuc boxes on order to build out and paint to add a 2nd nuc box to each of the nucleus hives. Once they are filled out by the bees, we will split each nuc. If the nectar flow continues to hold out, we plan to split each of the 36 commercial double deep production hives and the 67+ nucleus colonies then I will treat ALL of the hives with Apivar for the next 6 to 10 weeks while they are building up their empty 2nd brood box. Once all of the hives have filled out their 2 story boxes it will be time to transfer the nucs to 10 frame hives and add a 3rd deep box to the now 72 commercial production hives. The 6 nucs of "treatment free" bee hives are already on their second deep and working on the 3rd deep. Every hive that fills out its 3rd deep box will then get honey supers and the Apivar removed. We are managing primarily for bee hive production but expect to get some honey (just not sure how much). Again IF all goes well and the nectar flow holds out we have an optimistic goal 200+ hives. We learned an painful lesson about having too many hives so close together and are spreading out our hives around the farm. In August I will be planting 50 lbs. of Dicon Radish for a late Summer/early Fall foraging treat for the bees. Today the FEDEX truck will be delivering 3,000 frames that will be going in all of the hives once they are transferred to 10 frame hives.
I just finished bottling what we harvested so far from 9 hives which is about 53 gallons. We still have 6 more hives to go and a possible late season golden rod nectar flow. Keeping my fingers crossed for a late season second harvest.
Shortly after I got started in this bee keeping adventure an old bee keeper told me to not be afraid to expermint. I never even knew plastiac foundation was some thing to consider till a bee meeting in my 3d year. I still had no intrest in doing any thing other than what I had been after listening to the talk. Then in 2004 Kare won the hive raffle at the SEMBA spring conferance. It had Dadant wood frames with plastiac foundation. We installed the bees provided feeders full of syrup like any other beehive. After two weeks they had not drawn even a square inch of comb on that plastiac. I told Kare I had to pull that stuff out and put in some wax or we were going to loose the whole package of bees. I pulled all ten frames out and put in 8 frames of wax foundation and two frames of drawn comb from a different colony. In on week those bees had drawn out that 8 frames of foundation. In 3 weeks they had the second deep with 10 frames of wax drawn. I had planed to take that dadant plastic stuff to a bee meeting to either sell or donate to the club but i kept forgetting about it. Then a year latter I got a swarm call all I had was that plastiac stuff left. I stuck it in a box knowing full well It had a chance of working since swarms really buildcomb fast on about any thing. They did draw it out about 3/4 full but it took 45 days. today that stuff isn't fully drawn out soon it will need recycleing as the comb it does have is getting old and dark. MY take is I wouldnot pay 35 cents for a box car fullof plastiac foundation or frames. Give me real woodand real wax foundation. Al