Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Combining the swarm bees

I could hardly sleep that night because I was so excited about dealing with the bees in the morning. That and my stings were itching a lot. At 6 the alarm rang and I put on my veil, gloves and some improvised sting protection gear (see photos). Using old cedar shingles Dad and I had torn from the roof during the repairs, I started a little fire on the ground then transferred it to the smoker with a shovel. Dad gave me the idea earlier to dump sawdust on top to make it smoke more. So I got a bowl of sawdust from under his table saw and walked on back to where the bees where.

The night before I had been on the internet, researching ways of getting all the bees together. I ended up chatting with some beekeepers on Beemaster's International Beekeeping Forum - http://forum.beemaster.com/ . Basically they all just said smoke up the bees, open up the boxes and dump them all into the hive body. Another guy suggested just opening the boxes and hive and leaving them touching overnight, the idea being that the bees would just go into the hive body since it was the best suited for a new home. But I was too afraid of them flying away to try that.

Anyway I went over to the bee area in the back - I guess we can call it the apiary now - and smoked the bees through the holes in the boxes. The funny thing was that only the bees in the hive body and one other cardboard box sounded angry. Another box was naturally quiet since there were only a handful of bees in it. But hardly a buzz came from the third box, which was unusually peaceful compared to the others. I figured the bees in there had the queen with them since they were so quiet and guess what? - When tore the duct tape off the other boxes and the hive body, all the bees flooded en masse into the peaceful box... So I was thinking the queen must've been there. I waited until most of the bees had gone into that box, then held it upside down the hive body and gave it one good downward shake. There were so many bees that they were spilling over the sides like they did yesterday. I scooped them all onto the top as best I could, then put on the inner cover and an empty super over that. As had been suggested to me by the kind folks at BIBF, I put two blocks of wood on either side of the hole in the inner cover and on top of them inverted a pickle jar of sugar water with holes in the lid. The feeder. I forgot to mention I that before putting the bees in the hive body (also called the brood chamber), I sprayed all the plastic foundation with sugar water as well. I was told the bees are likely to set up camp in a place where they find food available. Makes perfect sense. After getting the feeder in there, I put on the lid (or telescoping outer cover, as they say in beekeeping books) and crossed my fingers, hoping the bees would like it there.

Photos from the top: spraying the frames with sugar water (you can see the bees flooding into that one box), dumping the bees, bees dumped, putting on the inner cover, putting on the empty super, beehive all set up. Photo credits to Dad.

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