Saturday, June 11, 2011

Post Swarm Check-Up

I peeked in the hives a few days ago. I just wanted to see how much progress they were making in the honey super.

They each had one medium honey super I put on a while back. Then on May 25th I checked to see how much nectar they had collected. Virginia had stored next to nothing but Georgia had filled about 4 frames a quarter of the way with nectar. With the fruit tree bloom over and the alfalfa bloom not yet started I wasn't sure if there was enough nectar coming in to make a difference.

Since I was just going to peek under the hood for a second I didn't bother smoking the bees. They were very calm and didn't give me any trouble. I looked at about 5 frames in Virginia's super first and found that she had stored a fair amount nectar in about 4 or 5 frames. I close her up and went over to Georgia who swarmed not too long ago.

After seeing the progress Virginia had made I was very hopeful for Georgia, but, to my disappointment, Georgia had almost no nectar in the super. I thought that maybe the bees had consumed it all as they were preparing to swarm. The bees that are planning on leaving with a swarm will gorge themselves on honey and nectar so they have something to live on before they are able to collect nectar for their new home.

As I was about to close Georgia up I decided that maybe I should peek in the brood boxes to see what was left after the swarm. Even though I did not have my smoker with me the bees were very calm even while I was down in the brood nest. I did not see any eggs or larva but I did see quite a bit of capped brood. I also came across a handful of queen cells. They were not hanging off the bottom of the frames like many swarm cells do- these were about halfway up the frames so I am hoping they were supercedure cells rather than more swarm cells. I also found that the bees were filling the brood nest with nectar.

It is not too surprising that there were no eggs or larva. Since the hive swarmed they were either left queenless until the other queens emerge or there was a new virgin queen that would not have had time to mate and start lying eggs. Even though the bees are filling the brood boxes with nectar there is still a lot of space for the new queen to lay and as the capped brood emerges there will be even more space. I figure that they will move the nectar back up into the supers once the queen starts laying and needs more space.

I was surprised to find that Georgia was still so full of bees. Especially considering that the swarm that left her appeared so large. I think that she will recover nicely and will still have a good productive year.

I did put another super on top of each hive- they now have two medium honey supers. They don't need them yet but alfalfa and Russian olives should be blooming soon (last year they both bloomed about June 20th) I expect nectar to be coming in fast and furious when that happens.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


One of the hives decided to swarm today. I assume it was Georgia as she was the strongest of the two hives and had a noticeably larger population.

I was in the middle of my lunch break when my cell phone rang. It was Chris, my wife, calling to tell me that our neighbor had just stopped by to tell her that our bees were hanging out in her bushes. She thought that they had all left the hive and landed in her yard. She was not at all upset or afraid- she really thought it was kind of neat. She just thought we might want to take them back.

Chris would have collected them herself, but I wanted to get in on the action too. It took me half an hour to get home then we rounded up the gear and the box we were going to put them in. As we walked around the corner into the neighbor's yard we walked into a big cloud of bees. They were just in the process of taking off again! We followed the cloud down the block and suddenly they were gone- we couldn't figure out which way they went.

Chris got a few pictures of the swarm before I got home.

So much for my minimalist approach this year. Last year my attempts to prevent swarming left the hives queenless and this year we lost a bunch of our bees in a swarm. It would have been nice to have recovered this swarm and started a third hive.

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