Alternate title: Collecting a swarm of bees.
Painfully obvious in this day and age is the decline of honey bee colonies. We had 6 hives last year, harvested 270 pounds of honey, but due to
freakish weather, we lost 4 hives. Our bee inspector, who had 40 hives, was reduced to 12. A 75% percent hive loss occurred in our local.
Technically called "apiarists", beekeepers around the world monitor and share information about current trends on their hives. Not only do
pesticides wipe out our hives, but odd weather patterns must get factored in when losses occur due to weather.
The beekeeper can split their hives, and make new ones, or you can buy package bees from out of state. We split two hives, and ordered two hives,
from South Carolina. That brings us up to 6 again. Ok.
Someone who knows someone on Facebook posted a pic of a swarm of bees they had on the side of their house. Word got back to me, even though I'm not
an avid FB user, I told them I'd collect them, only 15 miles away. Swarms are precious in these modern times, a natural split off a hive. An
address later, and a short drive produced our quarry:
The swarm was about 12 feet up. It had been there for two days, and I was a bit surprised to see new comb being built. Nature is telling the bees to
go crazy. My theory is that the bees detect the changes in the environment, and are massively reproducing to replenish themselves. Bad weather, bee
loss, good weather, a genetic trigger to go crazy with reproduction.
On scene equipment:
Directly before the "capture":
and directly after:
There are always a few bees that lag behind, disoriented, that can still smell the Queen's pheromones. It took an hour to slowly coax them to the
direction of the Queen in the Hive Box.
To coax the rest of the bees to the hive, we had to fire up the bee smoker, and even though I rarely use smoke on my bees, it was required in this
scenario. Bees, smelling smoke, think their hive is on fire, and gorge on their honey stores, then fly away. It also screws with their radar. Smoke
messes with humans, as well, bar-b-que a delicious smell, but burning tires, obnoxious. We smoked the bee brush, and kept brushing the stragglers in
the hive box. We finished the collection by smoking the chimney and siding, erasing the Queen's pheromones. There were only about 20-30 bees
So the drive back to Dad's country hideaway was uneventful. He has 28 acres, and that's where the hives are at. And yes, as a paraplegic, he has a
handicap adapted van, and a valid driver's license. He drove today, all excited to get a new hive. At that age, I guess bees are exciting!
Back at his house, I loaded the new hive from the back of his van to the cart.
Detail of how to seal the front of the hive. Mind you it only takes 160 bee stings at once to override your nervous system and for you to go into
cardiac arrest, bee venom is very toxic in large doses. You die. Bees are nothing to fool around with. If the hive came unsealed during transit,
and the bees escaped, dad wouldn't have a chance against 25,000 bees by the time he transferred from the driver's seat to his wheel chair, and
unloaded with his wheelchair lift.
We're experienced, no worries.
Since we lost 4 hives last year, our goal is to replenish our hives:
Once we had hive seven in place, we checked all the hives to see how they were doing.
Hive 4 was a bit weak, and only worked one super, (the box of honey frames) so we decided the new hive could get the old honey frames to get them
They get a variety of honey, in different stages, a perfect treat for a new hive:
Good luck girls in Hive 7! (Yes, all those bees are female!)
We went on to inspect the other 6 hives, to check for brood. Brood are baby bees, basically, and if you have brood, you have a laying queen. Since
we split hives, only one hive keeps a Queen, and the other hive has to create a new one. Since all our hives had brood:
We know each of our hives have a viable Queen who is laying new eggs, and that the level of reproduction is offsetting the previous winter's losses.
Locally, at least, the bees are making a comeback.
Which brings into play my previous thought:
When nature is harsh, with odd weather patterns of freezing and warming killing off our bees, they seem to respond with vigor. The bee population
seems linked to the ability to recover from natural discomforts. Nature seems to balance out overall.
I wonder, often, if nature can balance out humankind.