Thursday, July 31, 2008

Swarm, redux

Last Tuesday (7/29) we went out to the bee yard to check on the ladies. At the same instant we both spotted this in one of the cherry trees:

Seems like we have a honey bee swarm every Tuesday now. What the heck?! I sort of expected Thelma's swarm the previous week, but no way did I think Louise's hive was going to swarm. Well, we eventually found out that Louise and her crew were where they belong -- this was someone else's swarm, or perhaps even a feral colony swarm that happened to land in our cherry tree. It was eerie that they were almost silent; a writhing mass of bugs, but silent. Trippy. They usually make quite a fair racket.

Well, I hate to turn away free bees, and we had some additional equipment (the hive body is still in primer, but useable enough in a pinch). This time we knew the drill and we were even dressed for the occasion!

Shake into hive, add top feeder, cover, and let simmer.

After we got these new arrivals housed we checked the other hives. We found eggs in Louise's colony, and eventually found Louise herself. The eggs were the key though. Bees exist as eggs for 3 days. The queen stops laying eggs at least a week before the swarm leaves, so we knew this colony had not swarmed even before we found Louise.

Over in Thelma's old colony things are going along pretty well. We found at least 4 of these beauties:

The peanut shaped thing is a capped queen cup. (The rest of the frame is mostly of capped worker bee brood.) One or more of these will hatch soon and we'll have a new queen in Thelma's old colony. We're discussing names even now. The fun part will be marking her. We practiced doing that with drones when we took the bee keeping class through the MCBA , so that training will come in very handy. It's a good idea to mark the queen so that you can find her a little more easily. Also the color indicates the year of hatch (2008 is red). Queens will live for 4-5 years, but their best egg production only lasts 1.5 - 2 years. It's really handy to know when she should be replaced -- a weakly laying queen means a weak colony.

1 comment:

Mark & Esther McBride said...

Great to hear the beekeeping is going so well!