If they swarm again, there will be no bees left in that original hive. While we were well-prepared for the previous swarms, this one was completely unexpected.
Before bees swarm, they gorge a lot of the honey to hold over their appetite while seeking a new home. The hive that all of the swarms came from is now practically empty. The supers can be knocked over by poking it with your index finger.
In comparison to our previous swarms, this one was a lot smaller. So what is their deal? Why are they doing this? Over the last month, our weather has been all over the place. On days where it was too cold, rainy, or windy, the bees stayed inside their hive. They had nothing better to do than eat and make babies. The hive became quickly overpopulated, so they had to leave. Their mind was made up, and they began the process of creating new queens. The “old” queen went on a diet (so that she could fly again), the workers gorged themselves, and planned to leave as soon as they could.
When a new queen emerges, she is supposed to kill the other queen cells. Well, she didn’t do that, hence the surprise swarm.
This one was a very easy capture. A couple tiny branches needed to be trimmed, and the bees went right into this nuc box.
These girls are hopefully going to a new home with another beekeeper.
Interesting fact: After all of this, we smooshed most of the queen cells that remained in the original hive. Girl, bye.
Today was a perfect day for swarming.
They hang off the edge, they make a loud humming buzz that can be mistaken for a weed whacker, they crawl up the front of the box, and then they swirl through the air before landing at their first stop.
As discussed in our last post, we prepared to have them land in a box that is perched on our tree. They chose a different location in our neighbors’ yards, in between two fences.
We “rescued” them by having one of us pound the fence on the wooden side, while the other swept the bees into a box on the wired side.
So are swarms really bad? They aren’t ideal for beekeepers, but they are part of the bees’ natural order. This will slow down the honey flow, which means less honey for us.
BUT! Since we were able to capture them, it’s like we got free bees! We started the year with 1 hive that survived the winter. We purchased 1 more. Now, because of 2 swarms and one hive split, we have 4 1/2 hives.
Interesting fact: Our Carniolan bees, the type that are known for swarming, are showing no signs of taking off soon.
This is our first year being proactive with catching swarms. Our hive that swarmed a few days ago is prepping to swarm again. To increase the chance that they conveniently land in the same tree as the last swarm, we sprayed the lower branches with a mixture of water and lemongrass essential oil. Lemongrass oil mimics the pheromone that the scout bees send out when they are looking for a new place to live, so they are naturally attracted to it.
Since we now both smell like lemongrass, the bees are attracted to us. We’ll be staying out of the yard for a couple hours.
Wish us luck!
The beginning of May is also the beginning of swarm season. Hilariously, we posted a note to one of our neighborhood social websites early in the morning informing that if anyone sees a bee swarm, to please contact us, and we’ll remove it for free. A few hours later, this was found in our own tree.
Swarms are inevitable, and we’ve been fortunate enough to witness at least one per year. It’s fortunate because it is one of the most mesmerizing things to see. We knew a swarm would happen soon, as we noticed that one of our hives was in the process of creating 2 new queens. We decided to try splitting the hive and creating a new one. This could create a couple different scenarios. Ideally, with a lot of luck, the original hive would decide not to swarm. That would result in having the original hive with a new colony being created. Sadly, the queen made up her mind, and decided they have to take off anyway.
When bees swarm, their first stop is not far from the original hive. Typically, they stay in one large clump for up to 48 hours. All swarms that we have witnessed from our hives have landed about 40 feet high up in a neighbor’s tree, completely unreachable, and then they leave for their new “permanent” home within 5 hours.
You can see where our hives are located. The swarm landed right where this beekeeper is pointing:
As a first time swarm catcher, he asked for some advice, but ultimately figured it out on his own. The bees were attached to a branch, so the branch had to be cut off. The girls were placed into a cardboard nuc box, and then we began the fun process of installing them into a deep super.We provided them with some food, a few empty frames, and hoped for the best.
Interesting fact: Swarming bees are harmless. Be nice.
Rendering bees wax is the hard part, which we will write about another time. That yellow thing next to the coconut oil is the beeswax. The rest of the items in this picture are the other ingredients we used.
First you take the beeswax and you shred it. You shred it. You shred it, shred it, shred it! This isn’t easy. It might look like it is as easy as shredding cheese in this picture, but it actually feels like you are shredding a brick.Next, you mix in some of the oils with the beeswax, and you melt it in a double boiler until it is pure liquid. If you are feeling risky, you don’t have to use a double boiler. However, if you aren’t careful, and it actually starts boiling, hot oil shooting out at you can not only be painful, but also a serious pain to clean up. We’ve done that before, and it wasn’t pretty.We’ve tried several methods of pouring this hot concoction into lip balm tubes. With some 6th grade students, we tried using a beaker from science class. We tried using a teeny tiny funnel that was special ordered. Both of these ideas were effective but messy. Finally we discovered the beauty of little disposable pipettes. We also found this cool contraption you see on top of the lip balm containers. This holds them all in place so that they can cool down easily without accidentally knocking them over while being clumsy.
After it dries, we cap and label them. Then we sell them for $3.00 each, or 2 for $5.00 if we are feeling saucy.
Interesting Fact: Trial-and-Error, with an emphasis on error, is what beekeeping is all about.
We owe a million thanks to our friend Allie Schnurr and my dad. We started messing around with a consistent recipe for bee balm, and with that we entered the stressful realm of creating lip balm labels.
We wish it wasn’t so difficult to come up with a decision. We wish we didn’t have to put an address on them. We wish we didn’t torture Allie by changing her free “favor” into a free job. And we are very grateful that my dad was willing to mess around with his printer, use up his ink, and drive to and from our house a bunch of times.
The labels were brought to a group of brutally honest 5th and 6th grade students who gave feedback which influenced more changes. We ended up choosing this one for our peppermint flavored Besaw’s Bee Balm.
Our friend Robert Frank is letting us set up a mini-display tomorrow night for First Friday at the Hungerford Building. We’ll be on the 3rd floor from 6-9pm. Stop by and check out local artists, buy some stuff, and maybe buy some Bee Sauce or Bee Balm from us!