Bee on my privet

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Swarms in July

A few days ago I received a call from a friend. His lawn care guy said there was a tree down in the yard at one of his houses. He goes to check it out and sure enough, half of a huge willow is laying in the back yard on the ground. He proceeds to chop it up with his chain saw until he gets close to the fence. As he get close to the fence he notices a bunch of bees flying around and calls it quits. This is where I come in.
Glen calls me and tells me he thinks there is a honey bee hive in the downed tree in his yard. I gather my bee things and a chainsaw and head over to take a look. After a brief inspection of the premises, my wife finds the colony. We pack up and tell Glen that they are indeed honey bees and that I will remove them the next day.
 Early the next morning, I clear vines and small shrubs from the area where the bees are and start making the log shorter. I get to the colony and screen the end. I wait till after dark and toss the whole log in the truck.
 When I get home I lay the log on the hive support where I am going to make their home and cover the entrance with leaves and such so they will reorient when they head out the next morning. I was not sure if I moved them a sufficient distance to ensure they would not head back to where the log used to be. Better safe than beeless.
 About mid-day I go and check on them and notice a large glob of hive beetle larvae in the end of the log. I figure now is as good time as any and proceed to cracking the log open. Wow. I cannot even begin to explain this poor devastated hive. How they managed to keep going is beyond me. Apparently, when the branch fell, all the comb compacted into a heap on what is now the floor of the hive. I am guessing the queen died in there somewhere because I never found her and there were no eggs, just honey. There was also very little usable comb. The small hive beetle infestation was so overwhelming that I just burned the log after I coaxed the bees into a langtroth. No useable honey or anything.
 To add insult to injury, after I got the bees into the langstroth hive, the bees that live in the pole on the other side of the shed began robbing them of the syrup I just fed them. To combat this, I blocked their entrance and moved the hive about 50 feet and them placed an empty 5 frame nucleus hive in it's place for any bees that were out to get into.
 I left for several hours........
 When I came back pandemonium was well under way. The sequestered bees decided they did not like being kept inside and removed the plug on the hive entrance. They then flew to where their hive used to be and for whatever reason, two colonies of bees were beating each other up over an empty box. Bees are apparently not as smart as I gave them credit for.
 I took the 5 frame apart and shook the bees out. It was getting pretty close to dark so everyone started heading home. I then moved the hive back to it's original location so the bees could get back in. I then made a screen tunnel about 6 inches long that leads up from the entrance hole to help prevent further robbing. I figured everything would return to normal at this point. I was wrong.
 At the crack of dawn (for me, around 8:30) I headed out back to check out the continuing craziness. I was not disappointed. There were bees everywhere! Oddly there were thousands on the empty five frame nuc hive. I had the front blocked off so they were just covering it. I cracked the screen a little and they started pouring in. At this point I am clueless. What the heck is going on? There are still bees all over the place in the air.
 I start walking around and notice there is a big wad of bees on the ground about 15 feet from the hives. Looks suspiciously like a swarm. So I poke at it with a stick. Sure enough there is a queen in that ball of bees. I grab another empty nuc and lay it next to the swarm and herd the queen in the
hive. This was not as easy as it sounds. I then ran and made a queen cage. Upon returning I could not find the queen till she comes waltzing our of the nuc like she owns it. I try to get her in the cage and she flies off. Grrrrrr. Why do I keep bees? Why will they not bend to my will?
 I go check the other nuc that I now figure is a primary swarm and there on top of it, is the queen I was trying to catch. After chasing her around for a bit I finally get her into the cage. I put her in the nuc where I want her and set it up on a ladder where the bees can find her easier.
 After all that is settled, I open the hive that was robbed last night. there are dead bees all over the place. I smash a few obligatory small hive beetles and begin to sweep up the bees on the baggy feeder. Apparently a few of them were not dead and I get stung three times on two fingers. Good thing I am left handed. There appear to be enough bees left to make a go at it so I add a frame of brood from the other bee yard and close it up. I will probably add the queen I caught today to this colony as the swarm is small and they need a queen anyhow.

The ball of bees I found on the ground.


The elusive queen. Trust me, she is in there.
Nuc waiting for bees to fly in.
 See the bees fanning on the porch? They are fanning queen pheremone to bring in everyone.
The logs bees' new home. 
 The log. Notice the smashed comb.
 The entire log was just filled with larvae and beetles. I ended up burning it.
That's all till next time where hopefully I will finish my Zombee blog.