High class container colony

I had some free bees this summer. Especially one of the swarms is special, the container colony. http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=722 and http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=740

A couple of weeks ago I harvested two supers from it. It will winter with plenty of honey in the three square shallow boxes (corresponding to three mediums).

Container colony harvest1Container colony harvest2 The two supers were put on an escape board. Late that day I came back with a bee blower and blew the few remaining bees. Most of my apiaries are not far away from the home yard.

Container colony kept its promise

A month ago I opened the lid on a pile of boxes with crap combs just enough so the swarm that had landed on the outside could go in and make themselves a new home. They “promised” to clean the combs in the pile. http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=722

Two weeks ago I wanted to see if the bees had kept their promise. And if they had a good laying queen I had to move the colony before new brood hatched and they would grow too big to move without too much trouble.

Container2 A foundationless comb built in a gap between two combs.

Container3  The cut out comb inserted in an empty frame with rubber bands to hold in place till the bees had fastened it.

I was glad to see that not all combs were crap combs. The pile consisted of boxes from dead outs and bottom boxes from weak colonies. The combs in the boxes were planned to be sorted out. But the swarm arrived before I did that.

The bees had found the side of the pile with the best combs. On the other side were some dirty combs they hadn’t touched. But in general they had cleaned the 5 upper boxes and lived mostly in the three top ones. The three bottom boxes they had just started to do some research and cleaning in. When I went through the colony, the cleaned combs and the amount of crap at the bottom of the pile I considered that the bees had kept their promise. Well done!

Container4 Cleaned out crap from the combs done by the swarm.

The combs in the bottom three boxes went to the solar wax melter. I sorted out the combs now and put all the combs the bees occupied in three boxes. The bottom one became one with no brood and no food. I planned to move it up above a queen excluder after I had moved the bees to a new apiary. I wasn’t sure in which box the queen was, even though I realized she probably was in one of the upper two.

Container1 I sorted out the combs and put the brood in the upper two boxes in the middle of the three that made up the colony I put together.

The colony now had ten full shallow frames of brood. One of them was a foundationless they had built in a gap between two combs.

HDRtist Pro Rendering - http://www.ohanaware.com/hdrtistpro/ I put the three box-colony back to its place on some empty boxes. Next evening I moved it to a new apiary.

The colony might even be able to collect some honey also for me already this year. If the weather turns good. Otherwise this year might give the smallest crop ever (in average) during my 40 years as a beekeeper.

Free bees

This year is a year of swarms in Sweden. The weather is chilly and damp. Bees are sitting a lot inside having little to do but making queen cells. Maybe like many others in such a situation, thinking of reproduction.:)

In my home yard I have up till now have hade one swarming attempt, which I stopped with rain from my garden hose.

During this week I’ve had two swarms flying into my home yard from my neighbor beekeeper less than half a mile away (half a km). He has Elgon bees as well, but a smaller frame size than me, which I think contribute to increase swarming.

The first one flew to the pile of boxes with crap combs, but couldn’t get in. http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=722  I opened up after discussing with them. They behave well, even when I pass very close to them getting things in the container. The pile sits in the opening of the container and the door is always open. After a couple of weeks I will move those boxes where the bees reside to another yard.

Svärm pallstapel1 The bees liked the box better than the pallets.

A couple of days ago another swarm flew into my garden and landed on a pile of pallets. Another bad place. With the help of may hand I scooped most of the bees into a swarm box and put it on top of the pallet pile and hope the bees would like the box better than the pallet pile.

Svärm pallstapel2 I hived the swarm from above, easy and quick.

And they did. In the evening all of the bees were sitting still in the box. I hived the bees in two square shallow boxes. Corresponds to two 10-frame mediums. Now they are doing fine.

HDRtist Pro Rendering - http://www.ohanaware.com/hdrtistpro/ Church bees.

Yesterday I got a call from a church in the north part of my little town. A big swarm had landed the day before. They wanted me to remove it. It must be Abbey bees I concluded, Buckfasts. And they behaved well. A biig swarm. Probably from my friend Karlsson about 1 mile away over the fields. Elgons too.

I climbed the ladder, held the box in my left hand and scooped again most of the bees with my right hand into the box, and hanged it on the gutter, hoping that the rest of the bees would gather into the box through the excluder.

HDRtist Pro Rendering - http://www.ohanaware.com/hdrtistpro/ In the evening the bees were inside the box ready for transport to their new home.

The bees had in one day drawn 5 small combs with cellsizes 5.0-5.4 mm. 5.4 at the top and 5.0 at the bottom. Some nectar in the top of the biggest and two eggs. Laying queen:

In the evening all bees were inside the box with a few sitting outside on it. I transported them to on of my yards and hived them.

Three nice colonies in less than a week!

Svärm pallstapel3

Let us in – we will clean your combs

Today I got a telephone call from my neighbor when I was out in the car. He told me a swarm was swirling in the air in his garden, then moving over my container for storing bee equipment.

When I got home I went to the container. The door is almost always open to avoid overheating and too much moisture in it. Close to the opening I hade piled up some boxes with combs to be sorted out. Most of them would go to the solar wax melter, moldy pollen, bee feces, badly drawn, etc.

The swarm had smelled the nice odor from the pile and sat on the outside trying to get it, without success. I stood looking at them shaking my head and told them in the world they had went to a closed pile of garbage combs and not to the nice swarm trap hive on the top of the container. I hadn’t gone looking at the swarm trap yet.

As I stood talking to them about their bad choice, I got a feeling they asked me to open up the pile so they could walk in and they would clean my garbage combs for me. Well, I thought and remembered my friend who told me about the swarm that entered a failing colony hive in which the forest ants were building an anthill in one corner. The swarm just threw out everything in that hive and cleaned and secured it from the enemies.

Svärmsstapeln Inside the container looking out. The swarm have went in through the top entrance I gave them. A couple of weeks I will talk to them every time pass them. At that time I will open it to see if they have laying queen and decide how many boxes I will move to another yard to set up the new colony with old crap combs. Poor bees, but they choose them themselves.

So I opened the top lid of the pile just enough for the bees to enter. And they all went in happily. They thus got a top entrance. It will be interesting to see if they will keep what they promised.

Svärmfluster The top entrance of the pile of crap combs.

Then I went to the swarm trap. Well, well, well. Bees were going in and out there. I thought it was bees from the swarm that were looking for a new home when they couldn’t get in the pile. I almost thought it was a mistake now opening up for the pile bees. Maybe they had went to the swarm trap if I hadn’t. But how should I have known?

Svärmkupa Scout bees looking at a house top flat. evidently I stopped them from moving in.

I went to the solar melter to change combs. I had another pile with already sorted combs to melt. Then I saw A second swarm coming out of a hive. Maybe a second swarm from the same hive. No other though in my yard had swarmed. Many times swarms from other yards seek their new home close to a foreign yard. Good for the mixture of genes maybe.

I had the garden hose handy close by and watered the swarming hive. The swarm went back. And the bees from the swarm trap disappeared. They were evidently scout bees from this swarming hive. Well, well, well. Did I do wrong again, or did I do right again. We’ll see tomorrow if this hive will swarm tomorrow again.

Swarm from a tree


Last year my friend had a call in July about a swarm that had come from a big old tree. The cavity couldn’t bee very big. And the swarm was not big. http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=235

But the bees in the tree survived the winter and was thriving this year too.

The swarm was last year strengthened with a couple of brood frames from his other colonies. It was not treated against varroa last year. It survived winter well. This year it was used as his other colonies to produce splits for sale. A couple of weeks ago he was too curious about the amount of mites in the colony so he gave it 15 grams of thymol and collected the downfall. After a week 150 mites. Under the circumstamces it’s not much at all. The bees must have some kind of trait that keeps down the number. He has had thousands of mites falling in a few odd colonies in earlier years with such a treatment – as comparison. Normally he just give his colonies 15 grams of thymol, but in the middle of August. As the only treatment in a year. He has Elgon bees and uses 4.9 mm cellsize. His winterlosses is always below 5%.

Next year he plans to breed from this colony as it is a very nice one.

Feral swarm

Tonight at half past nine after a telephone call, I took a swarm in a raspberry bush which came from bee colony in a wall in an old house 20 meters away. The house is situated ”in the middle of the forest” in a small village, which 100 years ago was a thriving small industrial environment. For at least 10 years there had been bees in the wall in the old building that had housed four families working in the small industry. The house would be perfect for Bed and Breakfast. And probably it will end up as such.

– This was the most exciting moment in my life said the woman that had made the call, when I went away with the swarm in a box to the car. I promised her a bottle of honey.

The bees in the wall have swarmed almost every year. They are very small and easy to handle. Quite light colored. But thorax was remarkably black, on the worker bees, black hair instead of light brown. The drones were quite dark.

7 km (4.5 miles) away a niece of mine (Rebecka’s mother Regina) have had bees for more than 10 years so the original swarm in the wall may well have come from her bees. More recently there have been established a couple of apiaries about 3 km (2 miles) in another direction, with my type of bees, Elgon bees.

– What should I do with the bees in the wall, the woman asked.

– Let them live their life there, if they don’t bother you, I answered. They pollinate fruit and berries and flowers, being a source for biological diversity. The break in brood due to swarming will help keep them healthy.

Swarm draws foundationless combs

Larry, the excentric beekeeper in Indiana, shares with me many of his experiences. Here’s one I share with you readers:

Friday afternoon, 23 May, I just happened to be present at the beginning of a prime swarm cast from my Warré Box Hive Project.

Larry Gren

(http://www.eccentricbeekeeper.com/hives/boxhive.html ) The existing hive has double deep frames with small cell comb with cells ranging from 4.7 mm to 5.0 mm. I placed the swarm in a second Warré sized hive with eight of my double deep foundationless frames. It will be interesting to measure the comb drawn by the swarm in the new hive once it is firm enough to handle.

Larry kupa

The swarm was hived at the peak of a strong black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, nectar flow. When I checked the colony on Tuesday, 27 May, the bees had drawn comb in all eight frames down to the skewer/spale located eight inches from the top.

Larry kaka

I checked the colony in the morning 31 May. There was one frame of comb on the outside of the box that had a partial collapse. I think it was due to the rapid drawing of new comb, the weight of the abundant stored nectar and the 30° C afternoons. I observed the queen. She is in good condition and laying eggs.

The colony is not drawing comb as fast now as it did during the first four days which could be due to the queens laying and the added labor of pollen collection and brood rearing. However, I am still very pleased with the colony’s progress.

Nine days following the prime swarm the original colony has twice attempted an afterswarm. The first clustered on a tree branch forty feet up for about thirty minutes before returning to the hive. The next day the second filled the air and clustered on the front of the hive before reentering.

Here is a link to a video of the second attempt highlights. https://vimeo.com/97137803

I returned home from my out yard 5 June with 50 pounds of capped tulip poplar/black locust honey just in time to attend a third afterswarm. This time they were more organized than the previous attempts. I was able to place them in a hive.

I was able to cut several nice sections of comb honey from the tulip popla/ black locust honey. The rest I am crushing and straining.

Regards, Larry