There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Swarm x 2
This is the time of year when all the bee blogs start posting articles on swarms and catching them. So, um, why should this blog be any different? Here's my report on "two at once":
Ed called me on Thursday 5/13 and told me that the City Bees and the Country Bees both had bunches of bees crawling around on the outside of the hives. He was concerned that they might be absconding. When I got there, sure enough ... the bees were gone. I was afraid he was correct until I looked in the hive windows and found there were more bees than ever! The last time I had looked was about two weeks ago and they appeared to be still the same remainder bees who had survived the winter. Since the plants were blooming all around, I just let them be to sort themselves out for Spring. In those two weeks they expanded their combs to double what they had before. The Country Bees had filled up their 30-inch kTBH hive to nearly 90 percent capacity. That's apparently the magic number for them, and they had swarmed.
The City Bees had grown in their 36-inch kTBH to nearly 75 percent. Ed had been watching when both of the hives just magically decided to take off at the same time. The City Bees headed for some trees to the right of those in the picture at the top of this blog. I went for a quick scout with Darwin, but the bees seem to have gone to a place deeper in the woods and weren't "catchable". There are lots of hollow trees in that grove, so both Ed and I were happy that they were going to populate his woods and add to the feral population. That's part of the whole sustainable natural beekeeping idea, right? I assumed both swarms had headed for the forest.
As I was packing up to go, I noticed a little group of bees flying in a cloud right over one of Ed's whiskey barrel planters in the garden. When I got up close I discovered a large - volleyball sized - cluster of bees attached to some dead stems of catnip from last year's bumper crop of Just the Buds catnip. It was the Country Bee swarm! In no time at all I had them in my yellow cardboard bee box. They were so docile I could pick up the straggler clumps with my hands and dump them in the box. I left the box open a while to make sure all the flyers got back safe. When they were all inside I taped the box shut and headed to Karen and Maria's place. These would be enough for a large colony, perfect to replace those that had died out at the end of winter in their big 48-inch kTBH.
I couldn't believe how fast they took to the new home. I shook them into the hive; and before I could get all the top bars back in place they were already making chains on the guides of the top bars and starting to sort themselves out and build some comb. These gals were ready! I had put a piece of plastic queen-excluder over the entrance, since our experience last year was that bees would abscond from this hive easily. Watching for a moment, I observed that the straggler bees didn't seem to go into the hive easily and bounced against the excluder several times before giving up and trying to get in through the screened bottom. It seemed obvious to me that they were having too hard a time getting through the small openings. Since the gals inside were already moving furniture around and hanging drapes, I figured they were gonna stay anyway; so I removed the excluder and left them two open cork-holes to go in and out by.
It was a glorious Spring day. Up into the 70's. It's so interesting that both the hives would swarm within minutes of each other. I don't know the dynamics of all of this, but clearly the temp and the weather have a big influence on the timing of the swarms.
The Country Bee hive is still very near capacity and I don't doubt they will cast a secondary swarm out pretty soon. That's just great with Ed and me - and Darwin. Oh, I'm gonna put a bait hive out there, I have those new Warrés and that biodynamic Lang to fill yet this year. But if we populate those woods with bee colonies, that's a nice secret area ... safe from pesticide spray and any other man-induced fooling around.
This blog originates in Pleasant Hill/Dexter, Oregon. I try to summarize those little tips and bits of information and experience that no one who writes bee books bothers to explain. I've gathered up what lessons I could from 7 years (so far) of hands-on learning "the hard way"; from asking a lot of questions of seasoned, experienced Beeks; and from paying attention to the 'Net. My name is Tom Warren. [The picture above is of Molly, Ed, Sean and Twinkle, in the Eagle's Rest Garden and Beeyard]
Like many bee blogs, this one tends to not get updated with new posts like it should. (Lots of beeks give up on their blogs because they get busy with the hives and don't come in and sit at the computer) I quit beating myself up about no new posts, instead I've been told that the links and resources being present and updated makes this blog good enough to keep me at it. I'm keeping it active, even if it doesn't look like it. Patience, y'all.
Cut to the Chase ....
If you need to get started keeping bees real quick, THIS SECTIONwill give you tips and guidance on the things you need to do, in the order you need to do them. Then, Dear Reader, start from the bottom up and read about one Newbeek's meanderings toward how to save some of the bees ...