Back from Business Trip, Bee Swarm and Progress in the Garden

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The second bee swarm this year.

I got back from another business trip to the east coast Wednesday and have been trying to get caught up around the house since then.  On Thursday evening, I discovered a swarm of bees clinging to a dead juniper tree.  This is actually the second swarm this year.  I found the first on the ground under the apple tree while it was nearly freezing outside, and I suspect that swarm died from exposure.  For this hive, I put out a hive body to try to entice the bees to move there without me having to do much work.  All yesterday, there were bees over at the hive body checking things out.  This afternoon I found the bees have left the tree and I suspect they have moved into the hive body, but I don’t want to disturb the hive for a few days.  There is some minor traffic at the hive’s entrance, but not enough to be definitive.

The garden is starting to grow well.

The garden is starting to grow well.  The irises are blooming in just about every possible color.

While I was gone, the garden has started to take off. The lettuce and radishes I planted before I left have sprouted and are starting to grow.  unfortunately, so have the weeds.  I have spent most of the time since I have returned home pulling weeds from the garden.  The most annoying is certainly Bermuda grass.  It is very prolific and also difficult to remove.  I have more than half the garden still to weed.

Since returning home, I have planted Jericho lettuce, some potatoes that were no longer edible on the counter, mammoth sunflowers, and okra.  I also put flower seeds in the front beds along with chives as a border.  I want the front beds to be a bit more colorful than the green and brown, but mostly brown, color they were last year.

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Home Made Frames and Hive Inspection

All of these were made yesterday from 2x4's

Yesterday, I tried making frames for a beehive from scrap 2×4, a table saw, a miter saw and a sheet of plans.  I wasn’t able to make everything I wanted because I ran out of time.  But I managed to make ten top bars, ten bottom bars, and started twenty-two deep side bars and completed one of them.

I only had about two hours to spend learning how to use a table saw in somewhat creative ways, making several mistakes, and then finally making usable products.  All without loosing any fingers.  For which I am glad.  I won’t have another chance to make frames for another two weeks, so I had to break down and order new hive parts for the larger of the two swarms.  The smaller swarm can probably last a while before I need to expand its hive.

A finished vs unfinished deep side

Speaking of hives, all the hives currently have laying queens.  David was here today to help me inspect all four hives.  The blue hive finally requeened itself and there are eggs in at least two full frames. The green hive is still filling supers and drawing out comb.  The one frame with no foundation in it at all still has nothing in it.  I will be putting some foundation in it sometime in the next week.

The larger of the two swarms is doing exceptionally well.  It is quickly drawing out frames.  The bottom of that hive is made up of an open box.  I suspect that the bees will start filling that with comb before I get in the hive body parts, so I will be learning first hand how to do a cut out.

The queen of the smaller hive was spotted today, along with eggs and larva.  It has also done a good job of pulling out the foundation, but for some reason it started at one side of a super.  It has expanded the brood nest to three frames and is working on a fourth.  The frames with bees got moved to the center of the super in the hope the bees will expand the brood nest more quickly that way.

 

Thinning the Peach Tree and Custom Bee Hives

The peaches I removed went into the compost pile.

I spent most of my time outdoors today thinning the peach tree.  I haven’t finished the entire tree.  There are sections near the two hives I made from swarms I caught this season that haven’t been thinned much for obvious reasons: standing in the flight path of a beehive is a great way to get stung a lot.

From what I have read on the subject, after thinning, I should have about one peach every six to eight inches.  Doing this will result in larger fruit and sweeter fruit as the tree puts the same about of energy and sugars into a smaller set of fruits.  While thinning, I realized that my peach tree set a very large number of fruit.  In some places I had to remove upwards of eight fruit on a six-inch stretch of branch.

The most difficult section to try to thin is the top of the tree.  I think I will be pruning the tree to shorten it a bit so that I don’t have this problem again next year.  I’ve been climbing the tree and using a ladder to get to the fruit at the top, but there are still fruit that I can’t reach.

The second swarm I captured before it all went in the temporary hive.

The two swarms I have caught are still around.  The first swarm I captured was very small and has started having problems with bees coming an robbing it.  I’ve reduced the entrance to about two inches and covered the remaining opening with grass clippings.  This hasn’t completely deterred the robber bees rom coming, but  it does make it easier for the hive to defend itself from the thieves.

I am going to attempt to make some hive equipment for the new hives. There are a lots of wood scraps I can use for the effort and I have access to a table saw, a compound miter saw, and a router.  BeeSource.com has plans to make Dadant type frames.  I have an idea of what I can do for the hive body, but it will mostly come down to making a box that can hold the frames I make.

Yet Another Swarm!

More bees in the peach tree...

This evening, I found that yet another swarm has taken up residence in my peach tree. I had just finished mowing a section of the yard and was hauling the grass clippings to my compost pile, when I noticed the swarm in the tree.

I have done what I did with the previous two hives: cut the limbs of the tree they were hanging on to and stuck them in a cardboard box.  Unlike the other swarm I’ve managed to keep, this one won’t be able to go into a hive body for quite some time as I have no more hive parts to spare.  If this one sticks arround, I am not quite sure what to do with it.

Unlike the previous swarms, this one was quite a bit larger and more aggressive.  I ended up getting stung on the neck and having to kill several bees because they would just not leave.  I really hate to kill any bees at all, even when they are trying to sting me.  The bees that tried to sting me were at least half the normal bee size, which is a bit puzzling to me.  Scouts, perhaps?

This is the first year I have seen a swarm, and now I’ve seen and tried to capture three in about a month.  I hope I don’t get any more swarms this year as I have no place to put them or anybody I can give them away to.  That, and I don’t think my peach tree can take many more swarms.

Another Swarm

The first box I put the swarm in after I got it out of the tree.

Today, as soon as the sun came out, I had a swarm in my peach tree.  I am certain the bees swarmed today as I was out working in the yard an hour earlier, and they were not in the tree then.

I am fairly certain that the swarm came from second of my two hives.  I’ve added another super onto that hive in cause that is not the case, but I doubt that it didn’t swarm.  I won’t be certain until I do a full hive inspection that will have to wait until my brother-in-law can come to help with lifting the hive bodies.  When they are full and have propolis all over them, they are too heavy for me to lift alone.

The temporary hive I setup made from supers and some boards I had in one of the sheds.

The good news is that this time, it appears the bees are staying in the temporary hive I set up.  I won’t declare it completely captured until it hangs arround for a week or so.  The other swarm I’ve seen this summer promptly left the hive I set up.  In that case, I have no idea how long they had been in the tree and they were likely close to deciding on a new home when I tried to capture it.

So it is very likely that both of the hives on my property swarmed this year.  I home that they requeen soon enough to get a decent honey surplus.  If not, I would just be happy to have all the hives survive the requeen and the winter this year.  I know it is still a long ways off, but if I am not mindful now, it could fail later.

Hindsight being 20:20, I should have added another super sooner.  That would have probably kept the hive from swarming, assuming that it did indeed swarm.  Being very new at this, I am not surprised that I had something like this happen.  The other thing I have worried would happen is to have the hives die on me.  I will learn from this and hopefully only have this happen in the future when I want it to.

Hive Inspection and a Swarmed Hive

I checked both of my hives yesterday and I am almost positive that the blue hive swarmed between now and last week. I was intending to check the supers added to the hives last week to see how they were coming along and if I needed to add another super to each hive.  The super on the green hive was coming along very nicely.  The super on the blue hive was barely touched.

Remember this? My hive did the same thing a few days later, though I only saw the aftermath.

The super on the green hive had almost all the frames drawn out, but not capped.  I expect the super will be filled out by the end of the week and I will be checking in the middle of the week to see if I can add another super.  I will be getting some honey for sure from the green hive this year, for which I am glad.

I opened up the blue hive and pulled and inspected all the frames in the top hive body. I found queen cells on the bottom of one of the frames.  I saw zero eggs on any of the frames and only a handful of larvae.  All the rest was either capped brood, pollen or honey.  Also, there were a lot of drones hanging out on the comb.

I will be attempting to let the hive requeen itself.  If that fails, I will end up ordering a new queen to save the hive.  In the absolute worst case, I will need to get a nucleus colony to restart the hive.  I doubt it will come down to the worst case.