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.

Explaining the starter board

When the super is below the starter board, on the bottom board, with the field bees and with the grafted cells, the only connection with the queen is by air through the netting in the starter board. Thus they are in a queenless state as the queen is above the starter board in the first two days.

During the first day the bees in the starter box on the bottom board establish  their queenlessness and collect many field bees.

The next day they are ready to get the grafted queencells in their queenless situation. The field bees trigger a high acceptance of the grafted cells. But they should not stay in this queenless situation with many field bees and few nurse bees.

The nurse bees are with the brood and the queen. The field bees are bad nurse bees and will finish the cells poorly. Therefore the next day after grafting you put the broodbox(-es) with the queen and the nurse bees are back to the bottom board again. Above an excluder on the brood boxes now come the super with grafted cells (and the field bees), the starter box.

The field bees will go down, sense the queen and be happy again and go out and do their field work. The nurse bees will sense the queencells and go nursing them. The excluder is necessary to create a situation where the pheromones of queen have difficulties reach the box with the started queencells as the queen can’t go there. Thus the nurse  bees up there continue to feed the queen larvae as when there they sense the queen is poor as they don’t get as much queen pheromones, due to the excluder.

The nurse bees will finish the cells so they are well fed, which is the important thing, not the size of the queen cells (for example are long cells bad cells as the larvae then gets a long way to feed). If the weather is bad, the bees might eat up a couple of cells. They might even not feed some enough and those will stay open longer, maybe not be capped at all. maybe if the accepted number very high to start with.

The best cell starter

The modified Snelgrove board by Pasaga Ramic is an excellent starter board. http://www.elgon.es/diary/?p=167

Where you usually have the broodnest box(-es) – on the bottom board – you place a queenless box with bees, with or without a couple of brood frames. A lot of bees in it is good, but not a must. It will receive a lot of field bees from the brood box(-es). Upon this queenless box you place the starter board with a small entrance in the opposite direction compared to the main entrance. (Picture 1)

01 Brädan  Picture 1

Now you place the brood box(-es) on the starter board. If the colony is strong you may have a queen excluder on top and a super. (Picture 2)

02 Brädan Picture 2

Next day you graft, 15, 30 or more cells depending on the strenght of the colony and the nectar flow. You place the grafted cells in the bottom box. Which means some lifting, so it’s a good thing not to have more than a few food frames in the brood box(-es). Otherwise it may be a lot of heavy lifting.

Next day again, one day after grafting you manipulate the boxes. The bottom box with the cells you move to the side temporarily and put the brood box(-es) on the bottom board. Then the excluder. (Picture 3)

03 Brädan Picture 3

The box with the grafted cells you put on the excluder. Now you can check how many cells the bees are building. (Picture 4)

04 Brädan Picture 4

Then comes the supers, covering plastic sheet if you use that, and a covering board (inner cover). On top you store the starter board until next time. Then the outer cover. (Picture 5)

05 Brädan Picture 5

Three days later Rebecka  brings the capped cells to the incubator. If a cell is not capped, she takes the royal jelly in a small bottle and dilute it with somewhat water. She uses a matchstick and puts a drop of this solution in each cell just before grafting next  time.

If you let a colony incubate the cells above an excluder use at least two broodframes on each side of the capped cells. Otherwise the bees may not keep the correct temperature for the cells. To prevent the bees from destroying one or more cells you may cover the cells with cages.

First Queen

Beware ye old men, the day have come when women run faster. Like in the old days of the survival of farmers, when the women were the beekeepers. Well, anyway my niece (I treat her mother as my sister though she is the daughter of my sister) Rebecka (29) has qualification to be as focused a bee-nerd as myself.

FirstQueen Graft

I showed her one larva how to graft and she is now doing all my queen rearing, managing the starter colony and finisher, preparing and filling mini nucs with food, bees and mature pupae.

FirstQueen Board Managing the queen breeding board.

Today she checked the first batch of 23 mini nucs. 22 laying. When she opened the first one and saw bees in harmony building comb, queen laying and some brood even capped she cried of joy.


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