Advertisements
Home

Bee Swarms – A Model of Consensus Building

1 Comment

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

Advertisements

Bees, Berries and Backyards

Leave a comment

Yesterday, Saturday the 7th of April, I drove over to Navasota to pick up 4 packages of bees from R Weaver Apiaries. Saturday was an unseasonably cool and misty day. Surprisingly it was 72 when I left the house in Kingwood and a brisk and damp 52 after the 75 mile drive through the oncoming cold front. I made a decision to wait and hive up the bees on Sunday.

Well, Sunday was a very brisk 44 and prospects for the high at 3:00 was only 55 or so. I waited until 1:30 in the afternoon and drove up to the berry farm. The process went very smooth.

I put the first package into one of the topbar hives. I decided to not shake out the bees and just allow them to migrate on their own.

The package box is leaning against the side with the queen attached to one of the bars. This is a bare hive box and the bees will set about drawing comb for the queen.

Here is her majesty in her cage. The bottom end of the cage has a candy plug. I poked a hole through it with a finishing nail. The girls should have it consumed and releasing the queen in about 3 days.

The second package went into a 10 frame Langstroth hive. Super smooth installation.

The package lying on its side, a can of sugar water is shipped with the package. Once they empty it in a couple of days then I’ll add a feeder. I’m lucky in that I have a full box of drawn comb and that will accelerate the growth of the colony.

The blueberries are plumping up out at Blakelock’s Berries. With our cool weather it may still be 10-14 days before they are ready to pick.

The clumps of berries look so good. If they ripen together it will be easy pickings. The adjacent blackberry patch is loaded with blossoms!

The berry farm was now complete and I headed off to hive a package in a big Kingwood backyard. This yard also holds a very strong Langstroth and a good topbar hive. The big Langstroth is booming, I had to add another super Friday and it was probably a week or more over due! Again, the process went smoothly.

Now over to Mike’s smaller backyard to fill his 8 frame Langstroth. My friend Mike, watched from a short distance away and I was a little distracted. Mike is a talker! I almost forgot to pull the cork and put a hole in the candy plug. Where was my Goo Friend John to keep me focused? Florida, hope you are having fun! FYI John – I was 4 for 4 but….it was close!

Now, Thursday, I pick up 6 NUC’s and will spend Thursday afternoon getting them situated. This could be a very sweet year!

TTFN

Bishop

Gardens, Bananas and Other Stuff

Leave a comment

The bees and some consulting work have occupied my time, keeping me from blogging about my sparse gardening activities. I am still getting dirt on my hands, planting a little for the fall winter garden as well as prepping the bees for winter.

The garden activities have also included photographing and marveling at the growth of my banana clusters. Three clusters of the Manzano and two of the Burro(chunky banana), both Mexican varieties. I suspect the weather will cooperate and allow them to mature before the threat of a freeze heads our way. They do tolerate some cold weather but the freeze this past January was both long enough and cold enough to damage the plants.

A project on my loooooooong hunny do list is/was to clean/organize my garage, a three car garage that does house a single vehicle. Lots of bicycles, hive bodies, beer making equipment, tools(multiples of the same type), camping gear and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff left behind when our children moved out. Why am I telling you this in a gardening blog? Well, I started the cleaning process and I am easily distracted, “Look a butterfly”,…..I found some dried bean pods gathered from several seasons back and rather than toss them I wandered out to the garden and planted them. Three days later they are sprouting! A check with google on the time to maturity for the Blue Lake pole bean variety, 60 days or so, and I might get lucky and have fresh green beans by Thanksgiving….

DSC_0838

Wow, in just three days this bean is leaping up. Looking around the base of the tepee towers, I see several others peeking through the leaf and compost mulch.

More gardening, I have several late summer plantings, a volunteer Matt’s Wild Cherry, a volunteer English cucumber in a pot(producing nicely and an heirloom Brandywine growing nicely. Beets and Swiss Chard are also in the ground hoping to get a good start before it does get cold. The asparagus ferns are starting to die back allowing me time to clear them off and add compost before next spring.

Our neighborhood is having its annual yard sale this coming weekend. I have been drafted to help! Yes Dear! I will help…..and have a table set up to sell my honey and jams. I have 40+ pounds of honey and about 40 jars of jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry, taking up shelf space. I will report out soon!

TTFN

Bishop

Cutting Squares – Cut Honeycomb

Leave a comment

My topbar hive was becoming loaded, so heavy, that my poorly constructed hive support legs  were breaking. I needed to both harvest and stabilize the hive. Stabilizing was quick and easy but- we nearly tipped the hive over as one of the existing legs nearly failed completely as I lifted it to supports in place.  Now on to the harvest. 

I built a set of racks, half sheet wire cake racks, to keep the slabs from breaking up into less than desirable pieces that wont make “pretty” squares. The set-up will hold 4 slabs, stacked and spaced so the slabs hold their shape…… in theory! My Goo friend John helped me out. 

It was more or less successful, albeit, a little awkward! I will need to prevent the slabs from sliding around on the parchment paper I placed under each slab to minimze damage to the slabs, i. e., wire rack embedding in the soft wax. 


A nice full slab, beautifully capped, thick and very yummy. 

I filled 14 boxes of 3.25 X 3.25 inch squares of honeycomb. The slab pictured above was thicker than some of the others. The old shaped pieces were squeezed for the honey. 


I was able to get 5 nice squares out of the beautiful slab above! Almost perfect! 


I dropped 3 odd shaped chunks of comb into a pint jar. About 1.5 pounds of honey and honeycomb goodness! 

Looks like I have about $ 150.00 of product at my retail prices. I may be able to pull a little more from this hive but I won’t get too greedy! This hive is so strong and full,  I will more than likely split it again this year. 

TTFN

Bishop

Bees Again

Leave a comment

During the month of April I added 6 new hives installed from the six – 3 pound packages I picked up in Navasota. They are doing very, very well. I was able to start 5 off in Langstroth boxes with already drawn frames. That allows the queen to start laying immediately.

 The sixth box was a Topbar hive. I had two pieces of comb to start them out and I added two fully drawn bars and a partially drawn bar today when I fed the bees. 


The bar above is very similar in size to the two I added today. Albeit, without bees and honey. This should provide a good template for them to draw straight comb and accelerate the queen’s laying. 

One of my strong hives is really flying, buzzing and working hard. Below is a slo-mo video, starts and ends full speed! Love that iPhone feature! 


I could spend hours just watching the girls coming and going. 

TTFN

Bishop 

Yummy Late Season Surprise

5 Comments

I went to check on of my 8 frame garden hives a few days ago and had a pleasant surprise. I had left a medium super on top the two brood boxes as this hive seemed to be a little slow this spring. Wow, I opened it up and it was wall to wall of beautiful capped honeycomb. The brood boxes were well filled out so I figured I should provide some room for the ladies! 
I pulled 4 frames of beautiful honeycomb. I replaced them with 4 four frames of drawn comb. It seems that this urban setting still has some nectar flow. I haven’t fed this hive at all this summer. I added a feeder just to help them out. I will cut 3.25X3.25 inch squares from 2 or 3 of the frames and squeeze the remainder. They look so nice. 


A garden update, bananas are still my proudest success but the Armenian cucumbers have grown beyond belief! They are essentially a melon, so even the large ones are edible. I am surprised that my relief gardener missed picking them at a more manageable size. 


Please, no rude comments! 

The Poblano and Serrano peppers are still thriving. I replanted some tomatoes for the fall and added some more pole beans. Would love to have some relief from the heat and humidity.  It was 78 F at 5:45 this morning and only 93% humidity! 
TTFN

Bishop

Bee Adventures

6 Comments

Yesterday morning, yes too early for the bees  (mistake one), I went to check on and maybe harvest some honey from my original top bar hive. It has been intolerably hot lately, hot enough to make the wax comb very soft. This topbar hive is my gentle hive. See photo below;


I normally just smoke them a little and wear my veil as seen in the photo! Today I decided to gear up and wear my white overalls, gloves and the above veil.

Mistake two; The bees were agitated from the “git go!” No problem, I had smoke and protective gear. It was 8:45 in the morning and the top bar hive was still in the shade. Probably a thousand or more clustered on the outside and little evidence of foraging…..

The veil has long strings and the trick is to make sure that my collar is flipped up and the veil secured without gaps. Mistake number three, I failed to check the collar and the fit. All of a sudden I feel air from beating wings on my face.

“John, are the bees inside my veil?”  I ask.

“Yes, quite a few”, he responds.

I start heading out of the area and I have company both inside and out. They seem to be pissed at me and ignoring John. I took 6-7 or more in the back of my head and a few more on my forehead.

I wander back to my Suburban, licking my wounds and suit up. John is putting the bars back in place and the top back on. I return to take a peek at the other topbar hive and the two Langstroth hives.

The 8 frame is healthy but growing slower than my other three 8-frame hives. The 10 frame hive is doing nicely with a queen hatched from my original top bar hive. FYI,  my top bars sized to fit in my Langstroth hives. The second top bar hive was also cloned from a queen cell and a few  bars of brood, pollen and honey from the original hive.

Ok, I have orders from the sales manager (my wife for some cut comb and I know where to go. I have two 8 frame hives nearby and I have been anxious to harvest them. I pulled 11 frames, 3 beautiful ones for cut comb and we extracted the others.


I wound up with 12 – eight ounce squares and I also boxed up all the trimmings. I let them drain a bit on the rack before boxing them up. I love cut comb! I also wound up with over 30 pounds of liquid honey. Two more hives to visit in the next day or two to  on the honey production.

TTFN

Bishop

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: