Saturday, May 15, 2010

May Swarms

Update Spring 2010!

Well I have finally gotten around to updating the blog. We're starting out with photos of our second swarm of the season. The bees exited one of the colonies in the yard and perched on a branch on one of the cherry trees. We came home from Jake's soccer game to find 10,000+ bees hanging out.

Swarms are a colony's way of dividing themselves. Once a colony reaches a certain size the worker bees collectively decide that it's time to split the colony in half. They begin to make queen cells inside the colonies on the bottom of the frames (or combs in a wild colony) and they begin to 'slim down' their queen so that she's able to fly. Once the cells are capped about half of the colony exits the front door in a massive swarm of bees. They usually settle down on a nearby structure (could be a tree branch, fence post, car, etc) and hang out while the scout bees search for a suitable new home. Once a new home is found the swarm lifts off of the temporary perch and heads for their new digs. Although menacing in appearance swarms are usually totally docile. They have no honey stores or brood to defend and they are usually stuffed to the gills on honey. It is this honey that will give them the ability to draw new combs in their new-found home. Swarms are comb drawing machines.

I got a nuc box together with 5 new frames of pure beeswax foundation. Holding the box underneath the swarm I shook the branch sharply and dropped the majority of the bees into the box. You don't necessarily need to get the queen (but it would help). Once you have a 'critical mass' of bees in the box the others will follow. I checked the bees 3 days after shaking them into the new box and found that they had drawn almost all of the foundation into new combs.

After work yesterday I stopped over at a buddy's house to check on the colonies I keep over there. Harvey and his wife Ellen have a very interesting property and what they have going on there is my vision for my retirement (or post lottery winning) days. You can check out their website at

It was my intention to substitute the honey super I had placed on the colony over there with a super designed for Ross Round comb sections. When I opened the colony I discovered that they were in post-swarm mode with imminently hatching queen cells everywhere. I removed two cells and could feel and hear the sounds of queen bees that are about to emerge. Then, while I watched one of the queens chewed her way out of the cell I was holding and emerged into a queen cage I held over the end of the cell.

No comments: