Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 26, 2013

I got a swarm call that sounded too difficult to get (40 feet up a tree) so I passed on it. But I spread the word to a few other lists I know of. After I got off work I stopped by to see if someone had come to get it or if it moved on. When I got there I found that the home owner had contacted someone else who was willing to give it a try. They had an extension ladder leaning against the tree and were using a very long fishing net to scoop up the bees.

It turns out the home owner who called was the beekeeper who's bees had swarmed. He wasn't interested in having a 2nd hive so he didn't want to collect the swarm. But the beekeeper who answered the call had lost all 3 of his hives over winter, so he was starting over again. It looked like a lot of work trying to scoop up those bees and putting them in a hive body, so I was content with just observing.

There were still a lot of bees on the branch when I arrived, but within a couple minutes they all took off. At first they flew out over some neighbor houses and trees. We thought they were leaving for sure. We went around to the street to see what direction and how far they had gone, but then we noticed they were returning and were descending on the hive body.

I think they took off, then realized the queen wasn't with them so they headed back. When they got back they caught the "homing scent" down in the hive and moved right in. It was spectacular to watch the cloud moving like that.

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Queen Beatrice
It's been a month since Queen Beatrice's last inspection. I needed to see how well they've been filling out the frames, check for queen cells, and see if they need more room. They had fully filled out all the new frames from last time so I added another box. The bottom box was getting filled with honey, so I moved it up to the top (under the new empty super).

They were pretty calm and tolerant of my "invasion" during most of the inspection. It wasn't until the end they became more defensive. A couple guard bees really started warning me and trying to push me back by buzzing at my face. Not bumping, just taking a defensive posture. I think it was because I was rushing things a little too much. It was late in the day, I hadn't eaten dinner yet, so I was hungry and trying to get through it as fast as possible. Because of my rush I was probably crushing more bees than I should while putting the boxes back together and my movements were probably less than fluid.

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Queen Catherine
When we did the cut-out on this hive we secured the comb into the frames with rubber bands. Now that the comb has been braced by the bees we can cut out the bands. We tried being gentle and carefully remove the bands, but that wasn't as easy as we thought. It's also less gentle than you'd expect. We tried gently breaking the bands, but that's also not easy or gentle. It turns out, that just cutting them is the quickest, easiest, and actually most gentle way of doing it. Do some bees get flicked by the rubber bands in the process? Probably, but it's much less harmful than the squishing and rolling that was happening with our other clumsy methods.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 25, 2013

It's a waiting game, and you never know what kind of luck you'll have with it, but bait hives are really the easiest way to get a swarm. You set it up, walk away, and hope the bees move in. And if they do the only work that's left is to move them to a hive.

I hung this up last year, but I think I did it too late. This past week there have been a lot of swarms in the area, and my bait hive was getting a lot of attention for the past few days. Some very strange behavior. Fighting and battles at the entrance. In hind sight, I think a group of bees were staking a claim to the hive and keeping other "intruders" from getting in. It was pretty interesting to watch.

I'm a little disappointed that I was at work and didn't get to see the swarm moving in. But the satisfaction of such an easy catch makes me quickly get over it.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 24, 2013

Another pretty easy swarm catch. This one was about 5 feet up the trunk of a tree. Fortunately the tree was young and flexible enough that I could just shake it. At one point the bees were marching into the box from the trunk, but then they started marching from the box up the tree again (the camera was off when that happened so it wasn't caught on video). I had to get a turkey feather and try to sweep them off the tree into the box. This was more difficult than it sounded due to the nature of this tree, but we eventually got the majority of them into the box.

No queen was sighted, but the way the bees were behaving leads me to believe we got her. I'll know better next week when I pay them a visit. But regardless, this is Queen Dulce.

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Bee Vlog - April 23, 2013

My first swarm catch of the season. It went very well. It was about 15 feet up in a cedar tree. I brought it down by simply cutting off the branch and carrying it down the ladder. I gave the swarm to Zenger Farm, a non-profit urban farm in SE Portland. A couple months ago I joined the group that will be maintaining the bees there and they've been in desperate need of more hives. So we hope this will be a good one for them.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 20, 2013

Today was a little different and a first for me. My church put on a Community Emergency Preparedness Fair. I was asked to put together a booth about beekeeping. I had a great time talking with people and sharing my hobby with them. We had a really good turn-out. I heard 250 people showed up which was about 70 more people than was expected! I don't think all of them visited my booth, but I'd guess I talked to about 20-30 of them.

What does beekeeping have to do with emergency preparedness? Well, if you make a Venn diagram with one circle "emergency preparedness" and the other circle "farming," then I think the overlapping portion is "homesteading." And I think there's a natural progression of interests of emergency prep to gardening to beekeeping.

Also, due to the current methods of mono-crop agriculture with migratory beekeeping experiencing record losses, we may be heading into a major natural disaster. I think we can "prepare" for this disaster by actually heading it off and preventing it by engaging ourselves in the process with more backyard hives.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 8, 2013

It's been 2 days since the cutout and Queen Catherine needs to be released from the cage. I also needed to make sure no major damage occurred to the comb during transport and push all the frames into the center to maintain proper bee space.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Bee Vlog - April 6, 2013

I got a call about some bees living in a chicken coop. I was told the hive has been there for 2-3 years, which seems about right judging by the color of the comb. The bees looked strong and seemed to be in good health. I'm really excited to be adding these survivors to my apiary.

This was my first time doing a cutout. I had some help from a friend (Tara) and family (Tammie & David). There was a lot of comb to cut and fit into frames and they helped things go much faster. We ended up filling 20 frames nearly full, with a little bit of leftovers. We spotted and caged the queen near the very end of an over 4-hour ordeal. We were very fortunate to have found her the way we did. The bees were hiding in the cracks and corners of the walls and we were gently trying to scoop them up and get them to the new hive. As I was doing a little sweeping in one corner she just suddenly appeared. She wasn't running too fast, so with a little help from a feather I was able to get her into a cage for safe keeping. Welcome Queen Catherine!

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Bee Vlog - March 30, 2013

Queen Beatrice is doing really well. There was a mess of burr comb filled with drone brood that I destroyed while going through the boxes. This is what happens when proper bee space is violated, they fill up the gaps and make it messy to do an inspection. I cleaned things up as best I could and left them some empty frames and an additional box to build up more comb. So instead of raising drone brood between frames they can just fill a frame if they need to.

When I was closely inspecting the drone larva (later, after doing the inspection) I did find mites. So it should be interesting to see how well this hive does and how they deal with them. I don't treat for mites. My desire is to have bees that don't need treatment. So far, this colony has been doing very well and hasn't shown any signs of weakness.

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