Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hiving Chris' Swarm

Two days after hiving Andy's swarm, I hived another swarm for Chris. That swarm was captured from a tree on a gas station. Pictures of the capture will come shortly.
Jonathan, my son, has expressed interest in beekeeping, so I proposed to him to ask his sister if he could borrow her suit and to come help me. Here is the setting, on Chris' property, Jon and I, and the box containing the swarm on top of the opened hive.

The box was closed tight to prevent bees to escape while they were resting in my garage, so the first thing to do was to cut the box open.

Bees are pushing at the door. This was a big swarm and the box openings were too small, a lot of heat was produced inside the box. I even had to set a fan to make sure the bees wouldn't suffer from the heat they were generating.

Several top bars were removed so that I could dump the swarm inside the hive. The process seems brutal, but that is the way we hive bees (swarms or packages). Here the box is cut opened, but I am still holding it closed with my hand while removing the top bars (I should have done it before):

Opening the box was quite un-nerving, that swarm was big, and the bees were not happy been trapped in that box:

Dumping the bees. I cut a few small branches from the tree where the swarm landed. Those branches will have to be removed from the hive, but for now, I am just trying to get as many bees (and particularly the queen) inside:

Removing the branches. Each branch was shaken off its bees above the hive, in case the queen was on it. The spray bottle was filled with sugar syrup, and each small cluster of bees on those branches was sprayed before been shaken. That way, the bees were falling in rather than flying out.

Putting the top bars back without crushing too many bees:

Everything looked good at this point. All the top bars were set, and the quilt and roof were ready to be set on top of the hive. Notice the bees on the front of the hive, marching toward the entrance? That means the queen is very likely inside the hive. On the landing board, fanners are calling in the lost bees by ventilating pheromones outside.

Jonathan collecting the tools after his first beekeeping experience. He said he was a little nervous at some point, when many bees were flying around him. I was very nervous! Bees are wild creatures that deserve respect, and for the inexperienced like us, that respect first materializes as fear.

Here is a closeup view of the fanners on the landing board. The bees that are firmly standing on the board, with their wings moving (not visible) are fanning. Bees may do this for 2 reasons: cooling the hive, or, in this case, calling in the lost bees by fanning pheromones from the queen, or from their own pheromone gland at the end of their abdomen (near the sting gland). You can also see on this shot the varied genetics of the swarm: many Italians (yellow), but also some darker bees (Russians or Carniolans) are visible.

Chris has a great place for bees. The hive was set under evergreen trees, so they should have plenty of sap for the propolis. The property is surrounded by (but still resisting to) blackberry bushes, and it is in a urban area, so the bees should be happy. Best success to this new colony. The first inspection will happen one week after the hiving (which will be tomorrow).

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