Friday, July 20, 2012

Swarm Plans Foiled By Pesky Beekeeper

The blackberry flow has come to an end and I was thinking that I could start spacing out the inspections further but apparently the girls disagree.  The Engineer hive has started swarm preparations and I found 7 capped swarm cells and 2 uncapped.  It was just 4 weeks ago that I looked in this hive and the combs were empty and they were on the edge of starvation and now they have almost every frame filled with honey, pollen or brood!  There is plenty of room left to build new comb and there was still some room left in the brood nest for the queen to lay, but the surge in resources produced an equally strong urge for them to swarm.  The hive hums with the heavy buzz of them fanning their wings to dry the honey.

The one in the center had just come out of a cell. Reminds me of an Ewok.

Several people have reported picking up swarms in the last week so the time does seem right for later season swarms.  There are still some minor flows left this summer, but for the most part big hives are now at a disadvantage.  With the huge workforce a swarms presents an opportunity to take a large chunk of the workforce away to start a new hive and leave the old hive with an abundance of resources to rebuild for winter with a young queen.  This is also a great time to break them up into smaller hives and raise queens.  This gives them time to rebuild and raise winter bees and many people report better success rates overwintering smaller hives in the Northwest.

The girls quickly make drops of sugar water & honey disappear.

As the blackberries fade away there are new plants coming into bloom as well as a few blackberry patches in colder spots around the hill.  Lavendar is still going strong and thistles and cone flowers are starting to bloom. There are also several Catalpa trees that are in full bloom.

Thistle blooms

Catalpa trees in bloom.  From a distance they might look like Chestnut tree in bloom.

Hive check (7/14/2012)

Lots of honey and drying nectar.  The queen seems to be slowing down.  This queens has always been a good predictor of what's coming.  No indication that they want to swarm yet.

Queen still laying a solid pattern.

Hive check (7/15/2012)

Northgate Swarm
These girls have been busy building comb.  They had two donated combs (one broken that they reattached) and they have drawn out 8 new combs and have already filled them with nectar.  There are open cells for the queen to lay in, but otherwise will need more room soon.  There is one more empty bar in the nuc for them to draw out.  Saw the queen and she looked good and was laying eggs.  I saw a few cells with eggs but no larvae yet.

The swarm queen.

These girls are working away and slowly building up.  Several more new combs added since the last check and they have a lot of brood coming and good surplus of stores.

The Icon queen.

The icon queen has a great laying pattern and back-filling as fast as they emerge.

Nuc 2
These girls are at the point where they are about to take off.

Her majesty followed by nurse bees.

Nuc 3
They are a little behind Nuc 2 in size but they are building up nicely.

Hive check (7/16/2012)

Found capped swarm cells and pulled the queen and 5 frames and put her in a nuc.  The swarm cells haven't been capped long and I just checked them 11 days ago and I made a point to remove all the empty cups at that time as well so they would have to make new ones.  Marked the frames with queen cells or bee bread for easier splitting up later.  They have a lot of nectar and are drying frames of honey in the back of the hive.  Some cross comb in the back that needed fixing, but I typically see happen during flows.

Capped queen cell covered in bees to protect it and keep it warm.

Hive check (7/20/2012)

Split up the queen cells into separate queen castles.  One of the uncapped cells turned out to actually be empty (they may have removed the larvae as well, but it wasn't opened by a queen).  Fortunately there was only one frame with two cells on it and the rest just had one cell to a frame which made the separation easy.  I left the frame with 2 cells in the hive and the 6 others went into the queen castles.  I noticed that the honey stores are 60% capped now.

The girls decided they wanted a tunnel in the middle of the comb and made one.

After a busy week the weekend is already here again.  I'm crossing my fingers that the rest of the girls have been good and I don't need to make any more swarm preparations during this weekends inspections.  I only have two spots left in the queen castles.  Yes I could cut the cells down to 2-3 of the best ones, but swarm cells from big hives make for the best queens having been feed by a strong hive and raised in swarm cells the way they have been doing it for millions of years.  I'm not sure what my odds will be on the emergence and mating of the 7 new queens, but I'm going to cross my fingers for at least 80-90% percent successful queens.  

- Jeff

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