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

Monday, June 14, 2010

Easiest Swarm I Ever Got

A farmer called me via my entry on the LCBA Swarm List. He had a swarm, "Come get it."

I asked, "What equipment do you think I need? Should I bring my ladder?"

"It's in a box already."

I drove over to the most beautiful little farm area by Creswell. Sure enough there on the picnic table behind the house was a big cardboard box, all taped up. There were even little screen windows taped in place so the bees could breathe. Next time I fix up a cardboard bee box, that's the way I'm gonna do it.

The farmer told me he had 5 hives, but was moving and didn't want to start any more colonies. So when this swarm issued from one of his hives, he just called me as the closest beek on the swarm list. He slid the box off the table and carried it out to my car!

"How many times are you gonna get a swarm all packed in a box and ready to go?" he asked, laughing.

"Prolly never again," I admitted, and shook his hand. 

"They produce great honey, too" he smiled.

Me, I smiled too as I drove back home. I had "caught" a swarm dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, wearing flip flops. My part in the operation, minus drive time, was about 5 minutes. You know how there's usually some leak somewhere in a taped-up box full of bees? I drove home looking in the back every once in a while, expecting to see a few bees buzzing around the back window. But no, this farmer knew what he was doing. Every bee was securely inside the box.

I've decided to give the Hard Luck Hive another shot. What is this, the forth attempt? Anyway, I set the hive back up in that nice dappled-sun area by the greenhouse in my back yard. I put 3 boxes on the Warré hive, put on my veil and my gloves and opened the big box. It was big for a reason! There must have been five pounds of bees inside. After spraying them down a bit with water, I shook them into the upper box of the Warré. All around me the dryer bees flew up and buzzed around; but they were so docile that they didn't even pretend to be upset as I put the top bars back into place and fiddled around with the Warré quilt and roof assembly. No stings whatsoever this time.

Because there have been so many absconding swarms this year noted by newbeeks on all the lists, I've tried a trick from several experienced beeks who were posting to different discussion groups: If you want to avoid absconsion, use a queen excluder for the first few days until they start bringing in pollen. My Hard Luck Hive stand is constructed so that there is a raised rim between the lowest box and the bottom board. I placed the excluder over that rim and set the boxes over it, which hold it in place. Now the bees in K&M's kTBH hadn't been very easily able to go in and out through the excluder, but these gals just seemed to ignore it and right away started moving in and out as pretty as you please. I can easily remove the excluder by sliding it out in a few days. For right now, 24 hours later, the bees seem at home, making orientation flights and even sampling the borage blossoms in the back yard.

It's been a strange year for the bees here in Oregon: a cold snap right as Spring began, then a quick spell of sunlight, then almost constant rain from mid-March until just this weekend. Timing is off for everything related to the bees. Some beeks have even had to feed their bees well into Spring, according to Ken at the Beek Association. It seems to have delayed some swarming, because all of a sudden, like my box o' bees, the swarms are beginning to issue now that there is sunshine. There's no news from the grove of bee trees. But I expect they'll be swarming next. I'm looking to fill out the 'Biodynamic Lang' and the redwood Warré here very soon.

But I doubt I'll soon get any more already boxed up and ready to go ... for free!

1 comment:

  1. What a great story...I will keep a good sized box with screened windows prepared and handy just incase I do see a swarm. Oh...forgot to mention how much I like your fenced in bee yard..