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Bee Swarms – A Model of Consensus Building

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First, it may be beneficial to understand why bees swarm. If you consider the colony to be an organism, it like any organism, must reproduce to ensure its survival. If left to their own devices, a beehive/colony will almost certainly swarm. Typically there is a prime swarm, the existing queen and up to 60% of the colony gorge up on honey and leave looking for a suitable nest. Sometimes colonies will divide themselves more than once. This inborn behavior, to swarm and reproduce, is both a bane and a positive event for beekeepers.

The positive;

Beekeepers keep an eye on the colony in early spring looking for signs of an impending swarm. Evidence includes an increase in the number of drones, male bees, being produced. The next piece of evidence is the building of queen cells in preparation of the queen leaving. The colony will need a new queen to replace the departing grand dame. The colony may make a dozen or more queens, only first to emerge will survive and mate. Side note…she may not even survive a mating flight…..she could become a tasty morsel.

The bane;

The bees swarm on there own leaving behind a much smaller population that may not build up quick enough to put away enough honey to harvest.

This reproduction discussion is cursory…..it is a lot more detailed and fascinating than this space provides. What prompted this post was observing bee behavior around my swarm trap boxes. I have three swarm trap boxes in my backyard and if the timing is right I see a lot of what is described in the large paragraph I plucked from Wikipedia. It begins with a few scout bees finding potential nest site.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarming_(honey_bee)#Nest_site_selection

“Nest site selection

The scout bees are the most experienced foragers in the cluster. An individual scout returning to the cluster promotes a location she has found. She uses the waggle dance to indicate direction, distance, and quality to others in the cluster. The more excited she is about her findings the more excitedly she dances. If she can convince other scouts to check out the location she found, they may take off, check out the proposed site, and may choose to promote the site further upon their return. Several different sites may be promoted by different scouts at first. After several hours and sometimes days, slowly a favorite location emerges from this decision making process. In order for a decision to be made in a relatively short amount of time (the swarm can only survive for about three days on the honey on which they gorged themselves before leaving the hive), a decision will often be made when somewhere around 80% of the scouts have agreed upon a single location, and/or when there is a quorum of 20-30 scouts present at a potential nest site. When that happens, the whole cluster takes off and flies to it. A swarm may fly a kilometer or more to the scouted location, with the scouts guiding the rest of the bees by quickly flying overhead in the proper direction. This collective decision making process is remarkably successful in identifying the most suitable new nest site and keeping the swarm intact. A good nest site has to be large enough to accommodate the swarm (minimum 15 liters in volume, preferably ≈40 liters), has to be well protected from the elements, have a small entrance (approximately 12.5 cm squared) located at the bottom of the cavity, receive a certain amount of warmth from the sun and not be infested with ants. In addition to these criteria, nest sites with abandoned honeycombs are preferred, as this allows the bees to better conserve their resources.

Today I witnessed what I suspect were the final two nest sites in the selection process. There were 20 -30 bees running in and out of two of the swarm traps located in my backyard. Being an eternal optimist, I thought I was about to pick up two swarms.

 

This white box is larger in volume than the brown box I will show you next. Both boxes a baited with queen scent and have at least two fully drawn frames of old brood comb.

 

This video was taken a few minutes after I shot the white box, showing a significant increase in action.

An hour or so later I realized that I was not lucky enough to snag two swarms in my backyard. Dang!!!!!

 

They are moving in and claiming the brown box. It is much smaller than the white box but has had the advantage of capturing two previous swarms. That scent left by previous bees is a strong attractant.

I am not giving up on the nice white box, there are still a few “lookie lu’s” checking it out but the consensus? A smaller box with the familiar scent of a home was the swarms choice!

As a bonus, I have a swarm trap in my backyard that will be moved within the next few days. Today, as the new swarm moved in, this box was exhibiting a curious activity called “washboarding”. Lots of theories of why, but it remains a bit of a mystery. I thought I would share the video with all y’all. I shot it in slomo but it starts full speed and ends full speed. It is just fascinating to watch them. FYI, it was very warm and humid!

When the old queen leaves during a primary swarm, she already has a few miles on her. A queens productivity declines steadily, forcing many commercial keepers to replace her every year to maintain peak production. If you are lucky enough to capture a primary swarm, you have a queen on the decline. The queen really does not rule the hive, the workers do! It is very likely that the swarm will create “supercedure ” cells and replace her!

“Supersedure cells are often begun after the eggs are laid. The bees, knowing they need to replace the queen, begin feeding royal jelly to a young larva they have selected. They build a supersedure cell around this larva (or several larvae) and it hangs down from the face of the comb. Swarm cells, however, are built in preparation for swarming and are not intended to replace the queen, but to raise a second queen. This way, there will be a queen for the part that swarms and a queen for the part that stays.”

From; https://honeybeesuite.com/is-it-a-swarm-cell-or-a-supersedure-cell/

 

TTFN

Bishop

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I’ll Bee Quick

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The swarm I caught in my “Goo” friend John’s yard needed to be moved before his mother’s visit from Rhode Island. Bees make her very nervous and the visit will be more comfortable without a hive in the backyard. I had recently lost a hive at a nearby apiary so I had a perfect place to move them.

A small problem though, the move was less than two miles and sometimes a short move like that allows the bees to return to the old location. The rule of thumb is move them 6 feet or 6 miles. Six feet allows them to find the box in a short period of time and a 6 mile move creates disorientation relative to the sun. At 6 miles they will orient themselves to the new home relative to the sun. Two miles could be a problem…..

I locked the bees in the swarm box by closing the entrance with a wad of burlap. I left them locked up the best part of two days. I also covered the entrance with some leafy branches before releasing them forcing the bees to reorient themselves due to the confusion of the branches…it worked well. Now I wanted to move them into a full size box.

My usual assistant John, was out of town for a wedding. Luckily my daughter Ashleigh was visiting from Denver and had expressed interest in the bees. She was a good help and she decided to try a time lapse video of the installation process. It went very smooth, the bees were placid and I barely broke a sweat. The video worked well.

After finishing up here we stopped by a single hive I have in a friends backyard. This is a strong and busy hive. Ashleigh didn’t know it but she posed for a Bishop’s Bees And Honey promotional photo op. I caught her shooting a slomo of the bees coming and going.

I brought her back to the house, got her bags packed, put her on the plane and sent her back to Denver. It was a busy day. We had a great visit, just wish she could visit more often. Just gotta make the most of every visit!

TTFN

Bishop

A post from My Beer Blog

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Sharing a post from my Beer Blog that is at least 50% about “gardening”. Elements of Beekeeping and Beers!

Hive loss but found a soothing ale….Please check it out.

 

Easing the Pain of Loss

 

An Early Spring – Maybe

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February 6th was yesterday, bees were hauling in pollen and maybe even nectar. We had a bit of discussion at the Liberty County Beekeeper’s meeting two nights ago concerning pollen and nectar. The discussion; Can you tell if a Bee is hauling in nectar just by how the bee looks? It is very easy to tell if they are bringing pollen but nectar…..that is a different story. Most comments mentioned nectar hauling bees will be coming in “heavy” and rather clumsy and maybe a bit chubbier. That aligns with my observations! Watch the video below and look for chubby clumsy vs. those hauling pollen. This video is from one of my hives shot a few days ago.

I have left a feeder jar on this hive but haven’t used it. This hive had good stores and was heavy so I have just been monitoring. I suspect that there is a nectar source nearby. I hope that the bees don’t build up thinking it is spring and then get hammered by a freeze. Did you see any chubbiness or clumsiness in the slo-mo portion?

A front blew in today so it went from 82 yesterday, to mid forties this afternoon. Certainly puts a pause on Bee activities! So, I prepped a couple of swarm traps today and tackled a task that I had procrastinated on for too long! I have been out of my lip balm for more than a month……..today was the day!

Tube tray loaded and ready to fill. This is my Burt’s Bees clone recipe

First of two batches. 46 tubes filled and then another 38 with 3 tins.

A bowl full of creamy smooth lip balm. If you are Santa’s nice list you may score some!

I managed to squeeze in some beer brewing activity to help fill in the day. Ten days ago I brewed a SMaSH IPA. (Single malt – Marris Otter malt and single hop – Mosaic). The beer should roll in at 5.8% ABV. I racked it over into the secondary fermenter and will dry hop it with a couple ounces of Mosaic. It will be delicious. I may get frisky this weekend and bottle the 4+ gallons of wild Mustang grape wine that is now finished.

Beets, turnips, carrots and strawberries are looking good. I will plant sugar snap peas in a day or two along with some radishes and more carrots. I will pick-up a few buckets of rabbit manure this weekend and scrape out some chicken manure, will let it cool before using it on my lemon tree. That’s how my garden grows.

TTFN

Bishop

Fire Cider

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With the New Year comes opportunities to focus on change! Unfortunately the commitments tend to erode rapidly. I began my workout routine commitment two weeks post my arthroscopic knee surgery in early December. I am trying to get a jump start on the hordes that arrive the first week of January every year. I will resist erosion!

Now the commitment to the(my) midsection and general overall health. I intend to drop at least 15% of my body weight by summer……. of 2019! Yes, this year! I see the doctor for my annual wellness check in a couple of weeks and I know he will talk to me about the above mentioned 15% goal! He will probably suggest a little more, LOL.

I have been taking a tablespoonful of organic vinegar and my raw honey on a regular basis. One of our regular honey buyers was picking her order and mentioned “Fire Coder” as a healthy elixir. She swears by it so, I decided to make my own. Read a little below for anticipated health benefits.

https://scdlifestyle.com/2016/03/the-science-of-fire-cider-and-oxymels-for-health-improvement/

I found a good looking recipe that had the components of the elixir she takes. A quick search and I found a recipe that looked perfect.

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/

My batch…….sadly, it will be 4 weeks in the making so I won’t be able to critique it, but, I ordered a bottle from Mountain Rose Herbs to get started with the regimen prior to mine being ready.

Recipe;

1/2 cup grated ginger root

1/2 cup grated horseradish root

1 medium onion chopped

10 cloves of garlic crushed or minced

2 jalapeños chopped

Zest of one lemon plus the juice

2 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp turmeric- I used 3 tbsp of fresh ground turmeric root

1/4 tsp cayenne

Apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raw honey- added after filtering the mixture at the end of 4 weeks to desired sweetness- may take more than 1/4 cup.

I added the ingredients to a wide mouth quart jar, used the canning jar funnel to reduce my mess, filled the jar with Braggs organic apple cider vinegar leaving enough room to be able to shake and mix the stuff up. I used parchment paper as suggested under the lid. It will prevent the vinegar from attacking the metal jar lid, I will probably buy some plastic lids for mason jars in the future.

Shake daily, store in a dark place, my pantry closet works well. At the end of 4 weeks strain through cheese cloth and wring out the damp clump. Mountain Rose suggests using the squeezed out ingredients in a stir fry.

Take a shot per day and more of sniffles are coming on. I will start a second batch in two weeks to keep the cycle going. Sorry Mountain Rose, but I will be on my own after the store bought bottles used,

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All ingredients except for the organic apple cider vinegar are in the quart jar.

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The canning funnel makes it easier to load the ingredients as well as topping off with the vinegar.

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Showing the head space needed to provide room for the daily shake and agitation.

 

FYI, I haven’t abandoned my garden nor my bees, but the right knee has been killing me so it was cleaned out in early December. I have beets, carrots, radishes and turnips planted. A few Meyer lemons are on the tree and I am abandoning my attempts to grow bananas.

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

Oh Honey

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Cutting the cap off a beautiful honey laden frame releases a burst of honey and floral aromas. Mmmmm finger licking good!!

Includes screen shots from the uncapping video.

That pure and clean capping wax is used in the Rosemary/Peppermint lip balm that I make in my spare time! FYI – I don’t make it very often!

TTFN

Bishop

Berries for Sale

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For all y’all in the local area;

Blakelock’s Berries – I picked 17 pounds the morning of June 6th and have them cleaned and in the freezer. I see much Jam and maybe some blackberry flavored honey!

http://blakelocksberries.com

Also find them on FaceBook at Blakelock’s Berries – $ 3.50 perpound of U-pick berries. They take cash and cards. 

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17 pounds of blackberries bagged up and now in the freezer. I also have about 6 plus pounds of luscious blueberries from The Sanctuary Blueberry Farm out near Montgomery, TX. They may be closed this coming Sunday the 10th of June. Check FaceBook or the website before driving out.They charge $4.00 per pound and yes, they do take cards!

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Pioneer Berries

 Phone: 936-537-0446

Email: pioneerberries@gmail.com

 HOURS OF OPERATION

 8AM – 8PM  **Mon – Sat.

**NOTICE: Open days are subject to random closings to give the berries more time to ripen. Please call in advance or check the website for daily availability.

ADDRESS

2512 Pioneer Ln Cleveland, TX 77328

This Years Prices

 You-Pick= $2.85

Pre-Picked= $5.50

All Jams= $5/Jar

 

http://www.pioneerberries.com/

There is always Moorehead’s out on FM 1314 but I don’t care for the parking issues and crowds. Today’s update indicates lot’s of berries available. FYI – they only accept cash or checks. No bank cards.  $ 2.50 per pound

TTFN

Bishop

 

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