Friday, May 4, 2012

Bees, Water and the Homeless

Things keep happening around here that are bloggable, but the words refuse to write themselves.  So, in chronological order, here's what's been going on in the beeyard.


I thought I was so clever when I bought my hives last year. I bought all medium depth equipment so everything would be interchangeable.  That was great planning until I decided to repopulate my hives with nucs.  The nucs have half the number of frames, but the frames are deep.  My nuc mentor crafted extensions to accommodate the deep frames but the nucs had 5 frames and my boxes hold 8. Hive boxes are like kitchen cabinets and closets--there's no such thing as empty space.  Bees don't like empty space and when they encounter it they make burr comb (irregularly shaped comb) or they produce drone comb and raise the brood to become drones (fairly useless males) instead of workers (the females that do all the work in the hive).  Hmmm.  So before I even picked up the nucs I ordered deep boxes and some deep frames to complete them.  This was a good idea, but the boxes didn't arrive in time for moving day. Two weeks ago I opened my hives in order to install the deep hive bodies on the bottoms of the stacks.   

When I suited up, the landscaper working in the yard told me he had seen a big bee.  I thought he meant he had seen a carpenter bee which is, indeed, a really big bee, but he told me no, he had seen a swarm 30 minutes earlier and they settled into one of the new junipers at the edge of the meadow.  And then they headed north.  I wandered next door to see if I could find them, but they were gone.  Now I was worried because I jumped to the conclusion they could have been my bees swarming.  I decided to pull out 3 mediums from storage to stack on each hive.

I really wanted to get in, move the furniture and get out so I didn't take the time to look for the queen (I've not seen her even once and suspect she is not marked) and satisfied myself with a mini visual examination.  I saw lots of brood, plenty of multi-colored stored pollen and lots of bees.   Crowded bees swarm. My bees had plenty of room.  The swarm was not from one of my hives.  Later, I did some mental math and realized it couldn't have been my swarm because my bees hadn't been in the hive long enough to make a new queen.


This is our new pond.  At the time I took this photo, it had been trickling in our back yard for about a week.  The water was finally clear and the first of our plants had been tucked into the stones.  There are 6 goldfish in there, but they are hiding. Just to the left of the waterfall, notice the flat rock that is half wet.

Last year, the bees took a liking to this particular birdbath and they made it their spa.

This is a closeup of that previously mentioned rock.  See the girls?  We THOUGHT we were putting in a water feature for us but apparently we have installed a 1,000 gallon bee spa.  Bees need water, too.


On Tuesday I was on the back deck chatting on the phone with my friend and fellow beekeeper, Susan, when something caught my eye.  On the edge of our property, about 13-14 feet up was a swarm.  Bees don't carry ID so it's anybody's guess if this was the same swarm that had been spotted 2 weeks ago or if these were from my hives.  Bees swarm when they are crowded, particularly in the spring, and they hang out in a big cluster with their new queen while scouts look for a suitable home. Beekeepers love to find a swarm, especially when the ball of bees is nice and low and easy to capture.  Free bees!  Unfortunately, my tallest ladder is 6' and I know I have no business standing on a top rung while I try to lop off a branch with a jiggling mass of several thousand bees.  These girls were not meant to be mine.  So I called someone I knew who had also lost his colony over the winter.  He foolishly stood on the top rung and collected the bees into a box. And he got away with it without breaking his neck. And without a sting.

2011  13
2012  0

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