We have had a tremendous spring and early summer so far. The amount of rain has kept things green and growing. Good for bee food, especially if you see my front yard! It has been a good swarm season as well. We have been called for a number of swarms–as many as four in one day. These have varied in size but check out the gallery for the “mega-swarm” we recovered on Memorial weekend. In capturing a swarm, remember that generally they are very docile. Usually you can work them without suiting up or smoking them. In fact, you don’t want to smoke them. I have found that if they are on a branch or small bush/tree you can just shake them into a box set below them. Sometimes you may have to cut the branch they are on if they are high in a tree. The key is to make sure you have captured the queen.
We also had another first experience, for me, in getting a bee tree. A tree in Deadwood was going to be removed and it was discovered that there was a colony of bees in it. Bill Clements was working in Deadwood and the city contacted him about removing the bees. The end result was the city had the tree removal company come out to remove the tree. The night before, Bill covered the entrance used by the bees with mesh, trying to keep as many of the bees in as possible. The tree removers cut the branches, then started on the trunk until they came to the bees. They quickly put a piece of cloth over the opening in the trunk and secured that. Then they went down below where the bees were and cut the trunk there. They lifted the piece of trunk with the bees onto Bill’s waiting flatbed. He took the trunk, with bees, to his place, dug a hole and put the trunk upright in the hole. The bees were in there new home. A post script to this is that the bees later swarmed but Bill was able to capture them and put them in a hive box. Again, check out the pictures of this operation in the gallery.
Friday the 30th of August I traveled to Rosebud to look at their hives. They have ten (10) hives, five (5) from 2012 and another five (5) from 2013. When I was there in July the hives were doing quite well with a couple of exceptions. I fully expected to see several honey supers full of honey, but was surprised when the hives were in about the same shape as they were a month ago. There were signs of clover and other wildflowers, the bees were bringing in pollen
Our path forward is to start feed them sugar water and set up a water supply near the hives. We hope that this will stimulate them to start producing honey. The hives were all quite active with lots of bees. There is no sign of disease, and plenty of brood. So there is hope for most of the hives and we will get some honey this fall.
I have added a number of pictures of a bumble bee nest to the gallery. I received a call from a lady saying she had this nest on her front porch and what should she do. I questioned if they were bumble bees and not another type of bee (hornets, etc.). Sure enough, they were bumble bees. I was fascinated since I had never seen a bumble bee nest. The woman asked if I could move them since she didn’t want to kill them but also didn’t want them on her front porch. I did move them but I believe all bumble bees die out in the winter except for the queen. The important thing to remember is that there are many different pollinators that are beneficial to us all.
Yesterday I received a call from a lady who is concerned that she has a varroa mite problem. She had put a bottom board, with the screen base and the drawer with the sticky board, on the hive to catch any mites that fell to the bottom of the hive. She had it on one day and when she looked at the sticky board she saw (estimate) about 100 mites. Her hive is a first year hive and is doing very well. Both brood boxes are drawn out and are full of honey except the brood and pollen areas. In addition she has two honey supers on the hive, one full and the other 30% full.
She wants to know when to put medication on the hive. She has several options:
1. Leave the hive alone until the honey flow has stopped for the year, remove the supers, harvest the honey leaving the two brood boxes for the bees for the winter, and medicate the hive for varroa mites.
2. Remove the full honey super now, harvest the honey and start medication now leaving the partially filled super on the hive for the winter. Do not intend to use the honey in the remaining super for human consumption as it will contain chemicals that could be harmful to people.
3. Medicate now, knowing that she cannot use any of the honey in the hive for human consumption.
Note: The question arises: do you want to harvest the honey in the fall or the spring? This is an individual choice. Remember, medicated honey, although good for the bees, is not good for people at any time.
After discussion this lady opted for #1
I support this decision mainly because she has a very strong hive at the present so there is no immediate reason to medicate now.
Earlier we mentioned the two options of when to harvest: fall or spring. We have members in both camps. The advantage of harvesting in the fall is obviously being able to enjoy the honey. One disadvantage is making sure the bees have enough honey to winter over. On the other hand, if you harvest in the spring, you will ensure the bees have plenty of honey; however, if you leave the frames in too long the honey will crystalize and you may not be able to spin it out. This is a personal choice and each method is viable. Our main objective is the support of the bees so it is always important to regularly monitor their condition and adjust your actions accordingly.
Our daughter in Cheyenne called the other day with the news that her drones were being evicted. Sure enough. When we checked our hives in the Hills, our drones, too were being given there walking papers. Quite unceremoniously as well. Even with the 90 degree temperature, our girls know fall is just around the corner.
It’s the end of July, 2013 and what a year it has been! We have had more rain than has been normal in the past several years which means food for our bees is more abundant than it has been. Also, we are not experiencing a large number of grasshoppers which have had such a negative impact on our bee’s food source in the past. Hopefully this will continue on.
Although we still have at least 6 to 8 weeks before the weather turns colder, we can be thinking ahead about harvesting honey and winterizing our hives. There are two different schools of thought on harvesting honey. Some of us harvest in the fall, making sure to leave enough for the bees to live on during the winter. A good rule of thumb is two deeps full of honey should keep our girls through the winter. You do want to monitor your bees especially if we have an unusually cold or long winter. Others do not take any honey during the fall, leaving it all for the bees. Then in the spring they harvest what is left over from the winter.
One of the problems that we encountered last year in the Black Hills area was a series of warm spells followed by a quickly developing cold snap. This resulted in the bees breaking cluster when it warmed up to clean the hive, etc. but not getting back in cluster soon enough and being caught be the cold spell. We found a number of hives that were dead but that still had honey in them. Winterizing our hives will be addressed later.