Week 7 & 8 ~ SWARMS!
Swarms – The Idea – There are a few reasons why a hive might swarm. Usually it is a positive sign in that it is the way bees flourish. One healthy hive becomes vital enough to create another hive so the original queen takes off with a bunch of the bees and they find a place to start another hive. The remaining bees have created a queen cell and produce another queen and the original hive continues thriving. There are many ways beekeepers try to keep swarms from happening. They used to clip the queens wings, keep her from leaving by using a queen excluder, adding supers to create more room, removing swarms cells (usually found on the bottom of frames), but, when a hive has it’s mind set on swarming it usually does. A swarm without a hive is not very aggressive as there is no hive to protect. They are far more menacing than they actually are.
June 8th 2008 The bees split the hive. It is natures way of reproducing hives when it comes to bees but it is sort of bummer not to have caught it and created a third hive…oh well. A strong colony is created and then it splits naturally by swarming and going off to start another hive. So I just helped Whidbey Island’s bee population by adding a wild Italian beehive. I had a feeling the feisty hive was going to swarm. We found queen cells on the lower part of the frames and after I opened up the hive they seemed more agitated than usual and flew in a circular motion above the hive for a while. So I had a feeling.
I read about swarming that week. Were they getting ready to swarm or just create a new queen to eventually replace the old queen (called supersedure). Honestly I had no idea and after reading all week I still had no idea. Even the advice on preventing a swarm was so diverse that I was left not knowing what in the hell to do. Worse case scenario I thought is that they swarm and leave me with a new queen and a few bees and I nurse them along with sugar water and pollen patties all winter.
Life could be worse… I would never had known they had swarmed had Gary (my neighbor) not come over to tell me how he had to hide in the barn when the swarmed initially swarmed because of the large volume of bees flying around. After things mellowed out he made a dash for his house. The site looks far more menacing than it is although I would not want to find myself in the middle of a large initial swarm. Bees are only aggressive when protecting a hive. A swarm is in search for a place to make a hive so they tend to be less aggressive then bees protecting a hive.
I went out looking for them hoping to capture the bees and increase my apiary by another hive but I could not find them. When I got back to the apiary there was a cluster of bees on the outside of the feisty hive. I decided that I should add another super full of frames to give them room. After I added the super I scooped the cluster of bees up and put them into the new super. Things seemed to be mellowing out after I gathered my things and left the area. The place they were clustering was clear and there was just a lot of activity with bees coming and going in the front of the hive.
~ On the subject of adding supers I have read that you should not add a super until all the foundation has been drawn out in the first super. Thus sounded good until I thought about how if the comb is (in part) being used to produce new bees, these new bees will have to have someplace to go. I would think instinctually the bees would be aware of how much room there is in the hive and either swarm or slow down the creation of new bees if there is not enough room. I have heard of the chimney effect where the bees build out the comb in the frames vertically in hives that have too much room. But in my case the comb was drawn out in about half of the frames in the first super…there was room, but maybe not enough. Adding the super now, with the first super being about half drawn out may end up being just an experiment but at least I know they have enough room for all the new bees. I can always rearrange frames to encourage them to build out the rest.
June 22 2008
So having missed that first swarm, about 2 weeks later I noticed a lot of bees flying around 50 feet from the apiary on Sunday the 22nd. I thought that possibly this might be a swarm so I walked over and noticed a big clump of bees on the fence railing.
There were two clumps, each on different rails. I didn’t have another hive bottom board or foundations ready so I quickly ran to the barn and built a bottom board and put together 10 frames. I grabbed the smoker, the sugar water spray, a brush and the container my bees originally came in and trotted off to the swarm.
It was not a very graceful thing to watch but there was no easy way to get them off the railing except to sort of brush and scrape them off. Bee’s buzzed all around, the sun beat down on me and eventually I had most of them in the box. I did not see a queen and because there were two clumps, I thought that maybe there were two swarms. They all ended up in the same box.
Soon there were very few bees left on the railing which seemed to mean I got the queen.
They were not very aggressive which I guess is normal as they are not defending a hive. I did hear buzzing for a good day afterward. I checked in on them the next day, gave them a gallon of sugar syrup to feed on and moved them into the main part of the hive with the 10 frames and they seemed be be staying put in the new hive.
A Drone Bee on my finger