Yesterday, I was outside moving plants to get ready for an upcoming permablitz which I’ll tell you about another time. J returned from lunch with a friend who wanted to meet our hens. In the midst of our introductions, J turned around and “Oh-hh!”
A first. A call to action. Adrenaline. Awesome!
I just read this GRID article about swarms. I was aware that we would have to deal with swarm behavior at some point and that we were due to inspect the hives for swarm cells. I, also, wanted to work to educate others about how to respond to a swarm just in case such a thing happened. Looks to be a good time.
- When bee populations are high, they may decide to form a new colony.
- They gather in a big bustling clump with their queen in a temporary location such as a tree branch until the scout bees find a new home. It will look something like this. It will sound something like this. It’s pretty intense but don’t let it scare you!
- Please, do not be afraid or create fear in those around you. The bees have no honey stores, no brood, no nest to protect and they are not aggressive. They are not interested in attacking anything or anyone. It is truly awe inspiring. It is best not to interfere. You do not want to harm them. It is safe to watch from a distance of 10 feet or so. For sure, this is an experience to be shared with friends and family!
- AT THE SAME TIME call a local beekeeper who is knowledgeable in collecting swarms. Don’t delay because once they find their new home; collection of the hive becomes more difficult. It is not time to call an exterminator. It is getting more and more difficult to keep colonies alive amidst the stresses of pesticides and herbicides and viruses and parasites. We need bees to pollinate our crops which feed us. We do not want to kill them. There are many people willing to help and, usually, at no cost. Here are some contacts:
So, to continue…our bees looked as though they were readying to swarm. We didn’t want that to happen. We want to keep our bees and, yes, their honey. We called our expert Montgomery County beekeeper, Jim Bobb, for advice. He suggested switching hive locations. In essence, we would fool the bees into thinking that they had already swarmed and that they were in their new home. OK. Did it.
Whew! That’s more like it!
In the midst of moving the hive; we did see many swarm cells. These are elongated cells built at the bottom of the frames which are built for raising new queens. We removed them excepting for one very nice one. We placed that frame in a nuc box along with a couple of strong frames with brood and honey; making sure that we didn’t put the original queen in. We were going to purchase an additional nuc later this spring to replace our weakest hive..we may not have to. This is becoming quite an apiary. Our goal is to have three strong hives. It will be very helpful if our nuc does well.
I, also, had a conversation with Warren Graham, an expert beekeeper in Delaware county last week. We were talking about mites. Warren joked that the varroa mites were the cause of all the world’s problems. OK…that may be an exaggeration but they are, definitely, a major challenge to the honeybees. He said that the mites, preferentially, went for the drone brood larvae as they spend a longer period of time in the cell before hatching out. He suggested making frames of dedicated drone brood and to freeze them. The mites are killed off and the frame can be put back in the hive so the bees can recycle the protein from the larvae. Sounds like a good idea and, as we reconstructed the hive in its new location, we put some empty frames in for the drone brood. We, also, started to pull some of the drone larvae out. Sure enough, there were many mites to be found on these juicy larvae..up to 5 or 6 on some. The battle continues!
So after the hives were inspected and relocated; the ground was littered with mite infested drone larvae. I scooped them up and fed them to the hens. You can see Top Hen guarding the delicacies here! Bon appetit!