Archive for the ‘Swarms’ Category

2016 has not been a good year for my bees.  My ‘end-of-year’ hive status saw four bee hives that had activity.  Now I have only one.

After being in denial for a few weeks, I figured I’d face up to the fact this Warré was a goner.

2239 Warre plastic film protected, 12-25-15 copy

Dec. 25, 2015…I had pulled off the empty top box and pinned some protection from rainwater getting in. It was too late.

2378 Warre 2 dismantled+detailed, 2-7-16 copy

Feb. 7, 2016…This is the top box. There was plenty of honey on the four outboard bars, but very little in the middle.

Biting the bullet I figured I’d better find out ALL the bad news…and opened up Bee Beard log hive.  Somehow rainfall had gotten inside here too, even with the hat and headband.  Because of El Niño, we’ve had copious amounts of rainfall.  Yes, it’s good for the forests, but not so good for the bee hives.

2430 Bee Beard, hat off, 2-20-16

2-20-16 I pull off Bee Beard’s hat.

Footnote to above…I’d like to make a waterproof ‘hat’ for this hive.  If anyone has a suggestion, please pass it on to me.

So why have these hives died back?  Could it be the El Niño effect?  Record rainfall in December?  Ron lost his hives around December.  This year I didn’t cover my hives very well.   I should have been more careful.

Another thing that’s been bothering me for awhile is the questionable source of swarms I get from time to time.  Where are they coming from?  I’m beginning to realize they might be coming from the commercial hives in the cranberry bogs.  The commercial hives, I just learned from a cranberry grower, come straight up from the almond orchards in California.

These ‘almond orchard bees’ could be infecting my bees and I DON’T GET any payment.

181 Several hundred hives, 3-24-15

March 25, 2015…..Less than 3 miles (4.8 km) distance away from my bee hives is the staging area for the commercial cranberry hives. These hives are most likely coming from the almond orchards south of us in California. They were being held here prior to being placed in the cranberry bogs.  Arrrrgh!  Bog bees…”diseased and loaded with mites.”

My wife suggests I ask Bill W. if he sells any Warré nucs.  Bill lives inland about 150 miles (241 km).  I tell him of my suspicions of commercial hives.  His reply…

“Hello Pat,
I don’t have Warré nucs for sale.  I get a lot of “bad” swarms also. These are mostly from poorly kept urban high density colonies having bees from poor commercial sources.  I pick up a lot of swarms with poor genetics and failing queens.  It has caused me to put out more hives and rely upon higher colony failure.
In the Willamette Valley, many commercial beekeepers will keep their colonies here when not busy with almonds or cranberries or something else.
Good luck. -Bill”

2223A Anchored GKLH today, 12-19-15 copy

The Grand Kids Log Hive is most likely inhabited by “bog bees.” Maybe I should say “was inhabited,” because it’s been silent for almost two months. I thought it successfully superceded, but I’ve not seen any activity since early January.

After assuming my troubles have come from the cranberry “bog bees,” I asked Steve about his bees.  We had gotten a swarm of bees, (most likely they were from cranberry hives) last year, May 30th.

105751 Steve's hive, 2-17-16

Feb. 17….. Steve sent this photo and said…”My bees are fine, but I fed them 50 lbs of sugar in the fall.”  Should I rethink feeding sugar to them?

Then there’s Pete’s beehives.  I asked him recently about his bees.  He is near cranberry bogs too.  “They’re doing great.  Out flying every non-rainy day, getting into madrone blossoms and other things, possibly even gorse, bringing back all kinds of pollen.”

Bob (of home-built bee vac fame) said his hives were doing fine too.  Bob is located near the bogs too.  Hmmm, maybe I can’t blame my bee problems on the bogs.

2454 The only active hive left, 2-23-16

February 23…the Green hive in the tree is the only active one left. The bees are flying in small numbers on sunny days…even bringing in pollen, but again in small numbers. When our willow tree blossomed, I expected to see bees all over it. I was disappointed. Few bees were seen. Maybe it was the almost constant rain.

Since my tree hive seems to have lasted through everything, I decide to try another one. I’ve got to do some trimming around it, but this will be the location for the next one.   It’ll hold Warré sized bars, but it’s too heavy to lug around for a bait hive, so I’ll be trying to attract a swarm.

2506 Next tree hive location, 3-10-16

I’ve got to cut back the laurel hedge limb and holly tree. Then I’ll custom fit the hive box between the trunk and the angled limb. I’ve tried it. I think it’ll work.

Bottom line…I think it was the El Niño rainfall.  I chose NOT to cover my Warré bee hives this winter.  Why not?  I didn’t see other beekeepers cover their hives up.  I think the difference this year is my observation window covers are slightly warped (outward)  Some rain possibly entered there.  With so much more rainfall this year than in other years, it was just too much.  Somehow the rain got into Bee Beard Log Hive too.  I’ll have to work up some kind of ‘head gear’ to shed water.   As for the Grand Kids Log hive?  I still have to figure that one out.  Maybe it WAS a weak, diseased strain of bees from the commercial hives.

Fixing Bee Beard Log Hive…

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Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11, but that swarmed moved on without us capturing it.

Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11 of this year, but that swarm moved on without us getting it.

Sept. 23...Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 23…Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 17...These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I'm starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don't understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into the winter shadow.

Sept. 17…These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I’m starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don’t understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into their second winter shadow.

Here's a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

Here’s a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in. This is at 125x (digital zoom) and not as sharp.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in.

May 14...The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice went into swarm mode.

May 14…The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice log hive went into swarm mode.

May 14...Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I'm happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing lots of pollen. They can be seen flying well here... https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byp0gCTqCQ6rZjBJVmZOa0FJZzQ/view?usp=sharing

May 14…Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I’m happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing in lots of pollen.
They can be seen flying well here…

Sept. 23...I'm down to only one Warre hive now. It's doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive 'shuttered' in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I'll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Sept. 23…I’m down to only one Warre hive now. It’s doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive ‘shuttered’ in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I’ll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Bees head into the Warre loads of pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven't taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Bees head into the Warre loaded with pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven’t taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Sept. 23, 2015...Sad to say, this hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.

Sept. 23, 2015…Sad to say, the Grand Kids Log hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.  The Grand Kids are back.

Sept. 3...Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 3…Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 21...Looking up into the empty combs, this hive is clearly NOT going to make it. When the wasps start attacking, I'll plug up the entrances and wait until spring. Maybe I'll get lucky with another swarm...

Sept. 21…Looking up into the empty combs, I see a lack of bees.  Clearly the queen isn’t laying and I’ve seen a few drones exiting.   Footnote:  This hive must have superceded a queen, because there are not only new bees, but also new comb.  This is the only hive I can see from the house…from where I eat actually, and I gotta say, I’m so happy to see the bees flying to and from this hive when I sit down to eat!!!

Steve says his swarm 'is hanging in there,' but he's starting to feed again because they haven't built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

Steve says his swarm ‘is hanging in there,’ but he’s starting to feed again because they haven’t built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

We are headed into autumn with four hives, which is all I ever really wanted, but I had really hoped that Grand Kids Log hive would be among the survivors.  It begs the question…are smaller hives better?  I’m beginning to think so.  I’ve thought about partitioning off the big log hive, but then there might be air flow issues.  The birdhouse bees seem to deal with lack of air flow, so maybe it won’t be an issue.  Right now I’ll let nature take it’s course and hope I can attract another swarm in spring.

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Big Swarm in Escallonia hedge.

Big Swarm in Escallonia hedge.

Another look at the swarm after removing some branches.

Another look at the swarm after removing some branches.

 Using a stick of bamboo, I positioned the Steinkraus-Morse Swarm Catcher as close as I could.  Steve slowly lifted the branch and yanked it down.  Most of the bees fell into the sack, some missed and landed on the white sheet below.


Using a stick of bamboo, I positioned the Steinkraus-Morse Swarm Catcher as close as I could. Steve slowly lifted the branch and yanked it down hard. Most of the bees fell into the sack, some missed and landed on the white sheet below.

That sack was heavy, heavier than any other swarm I've ever caught.  I had to be careful not to crush any bees when I flipped it over into the bucket.

That sack was heavy, heavier than any other swarm I’ve ever caught. I had to be careful not to crush any bees when I flipped it over into the bucket.

First bucket is full.

First bucket is full.

After another catch in the sack, this bucket was full.  The rest of the bees were clinging to the branch, so I tried out my homemade bee vac for the first time...

After another catch in the sack, this second bucket was full. The rest of the bees were clinging to the branch, so I tried out my homemade bee vac for the first time…

Even more bees in the bee vac which I recently built using a vacuum made for a 5 gallon bucket lid.  I used a dimmer switch (as seen to the right of the bucket) so I could adjust the suction to avoid harming the bees.  I'm happy to report that no dead bees were found.  The dimmer switch worked perfectly.  Plans were found at beesource.com .

…which I recently built using a vacuum made for a 5 gallon bucket lid. I used a dimmer switch (as seen to the right of the bucket) so I could adjust the suction to avoid harming the bees. I’m happy to report that no dead bees were found. The dimmer switch worked perfectly. Plans were found at beesource.com .

Judging from the bees gathered on the outside of this bucket, I think it's safe to say, the queen is within.

Judging from the bees gathered on the outside of this bucket, I think it’s safe to say, the queen is within.

Big Swarm has a new home.

Big Swarm has a new home.

June 18, 2015...Steve reports that his 'girls' are doing well.

June 18, 2015…Steve writes, “Just an update, “girls” doing well.  Happy pollinators week!

The above swarm worked out well, but it was only after we abandoned our efforts to try to bag the swarm below.

This was a 'pancake' swarm,' lying on the ground in front of a recently occupied Warre hive.   Are they going in? It looks like it...but they decided not to enter the bait hive.

This was a ‘pancake’ swarm,’ lying on the ground in front of a recently occupied Warre hive.
Are they going in? It looks like it…but they decided against it.

I replaced the bait hive with Steve's Langstroth hive, then tried sweeping them into a dust pan and dropping it into the Lang...not so fast, they break for the Warre hive.

I replaced the bait hive with Steve’s Langstroth hive, then tried sweeping them into a dust pan and dropping it into the Lang…not so fast, they break for the Warre hive.

I figured,

I figured, “okay, they made their choice,” but a couple of hours later, I found them going back to the Lang.

...all grouped up on the SIDE of the hive.

…eventually grouping up on the SIDE of the hive.

Since the swarm had been without water, I provided some sugar water to try to entice them into the Lang.  They would have to go into it to access the sugar water.

Since the swarm had been without water or sustenance for a few days, I provided some sugar water to try to entice them into the Lang. They would have to go into the hive to access the sugar water.  That ought to work…it didn’t.

Then the bees move over here about 5 feet.  I set up some moss water...

A day later, the bees moved over here about 5 feet away. I set up some moss water…

...and an inverted swarm catcher.  I called Steve saying I didn't think he would want this little swarm.  It's possible that it's a cast swarm with a virgin queen that can't fly.  He agreed.    Four days later we get the swarm call for the one in the escallonia hedge.  We both agree we're glad we waited.

…and an inverted swarm catcher. I called Steve saying I didn’t think he would want this little swarm. It’s possible that it’s a cast swarm with a virgin queen that can’t fly.
Four days later we get the swarm call for the one in the escallonia hedge. We both agree we’re glad we waited.

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May 21, 2015.....Hal stands proudly next to his log hive #4. The bees voted his hive as their top favorite place and moved in about two weeks ago. How tall is it...? Eight feet tall (2.4 meters) Bee hive capacity is 7524 cubic inches (123 liters)

May 21, 2015…..Hal stands proudly next to his log hive #4.  Bees voted his hive as their top favorite place and moved in about two weeks ago. How tall is it…? Eight feet tall (2.4 meters) Bee hive capacity is 7524 cubic inches (123 liters)

Frames are cut away to be able to see the comb being built through the observation window.

Frames are cut away to be able to see the comb being built through the observation window.

Looking inside the hive during the construction phase, you can see the screen Hal nailed in to let the mites fall down.

Looking inside the hive during the construction phase, you can see the screen Hal nailed in to let the mites fall through.

Bottom board holder slot

Bottom board holder slot

Hal explains the construction of it.

Hal explains the construction of it.

May 18...Comb length after about two weeks 3 days.  Note the mid entrance hole.

May 18…Comb length after about two weeks. Note the mid entrance hole.

May 21...Three days later, the comb is even with the mid entrance hole.

May 21…Three days later, the comb is even with the mid entrance hole.

Log hive #5? Hal already has the wood for it. He will be using cedar this time.  Solarbeez might have to build one too. :)

Log hive #5? Hal already has the wood for it. He will be using cedar this time.
Solarbeez might have to build one too. 🙂

It's Garden Time...and time for Patti to show off her garden.

It’s Garden Time…and time for Patti to show it to us.

Patti, a young 80 year-old,  built this fountain and pond completely by herself.

Patti, a young 80 year-old, built this fountain and did all the landscaping for the garden.  The surface she’s standing on are old recycled roofing tiles.

Lobelia grows between the steps that lead to the deck.

Lobelia grows between the steps that lead to the deck.

Cosmos is blooming already.

Cosmos are blooming already.

Sedum will provide much needed nectar during August and September.  I'm very grateful to Hal and Patti for alerting me to this wonderful nectar source for my bees.

Sedum will provide much needed nectar during August and September. I’m very grateful to Hal and Patti for alerting me to this wonderful nectar source for my bees.

What do you do with a log hive that has rotted out?  If you're Hal and Patti Strain, you'll make a pretty flower bed out of it.  They've already had some requests to make more.

What do you do with a log hive that has rotted out? If you’re Hal and Patti Strain, you’ll make a pretty flower bed out of it. They’ve already had requests to make more.

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I was beginning to think the swarms were not going to materialize.  I thought maybe I wasn't trying hard enough to entice a swarm to look over the log hive.  I decided to step up my game plan.  Kids like honeycomb and I know bees like honeycomb.  I cut off a small piece for each kid.

I was beginning to think the swarms were not going to materialize. I thought maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough to entice a swarm to look over the log hive. I decided to step up my game plan. Kids like honeycomb and I know bees like honeycomb. I cut off a small piece for each kid (after sampling it myself first, of course).

My wife was busy working in the greenhouse.  She could hear the swarm coming from over the trees.  She ran into the print shop to alert me.  I grabbed my camera while they were descending in the area by the log hive.  I groaned…”not another little swarm” as that’s exactly what it looked like.  But that was only the advance party.  As they started landing on the log, more and more of them floated down, landing on the log hive, but waiting to enter.  My wife wondered if the honeycomb was in the way.  Ha ha, I agreed and popped it into my mouth. 🙂

5-13-15...Big news today:  A ginormous swarm is moving INTO my Grand Kids Log hive today!  I don't know if it was because of the honeycomb or spacious accommodations, but I think this is the swarm I was looking for.

5-13-15…I don’t know if it was because of the honeycomb or the spacious accommodations, but this  swarm came to stay.

It was unclear exactly when this second swarm came along, but it wasn't much later, probably less than half an hour.  It was another big one.  At first I wondered if the first one had decided to back out, but I checked the probe thermometer which showed 76F.

It was unclear exactly when this second swarm came along, but it wasn’t much later, probably less than half an hour. It was another big one. At first I wondered if the first one had decided to back out, but I checked the probe thermometer which showed 76F.

Internal temp at 76F at 5:20 pm.  That means the original hive is in there.

Internal temp at 76F at 5:20 pm. That means the original swarm is still in there.

The next day, the second swarm is still 'hanging out.'  They hung around until about 3:15 pm when I was collecting a big swarm from Bee-atrice log hive.  (When you're hot, you're hot!)

The next day, the second swarm is still ‘hanging out.’ They hung around until about 3:15 pm when I was collecting ANOTHER big swarm, this time from Bee-atrice log hive. (When you’re hot, you’re hot!)

Temperature at 80F (26C).  After they, I spotted wax flakes.  (The bees were all ready to build comb in this hive, I felt bad for them)

Temperature at 80F (26C). After the swarm left at about 3:15 pm, you can see wax flakes.  (The bees were all ready to build comb in this hive, I felt bad for them)

Brian Vorwaller, you did an beautiful job sculpting my grand kids faces on the log.

This video shows the play-by-play of the Grand Entrance of the swarm into the Grand Kids Log Hive

The set up…before bees

Bee Beard Log Hive is BACK!

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Many thanks to Jeff Ollerton and HB for giving me the identity of this tree.

It just so happened that at the same time I was trying to identify the tree, we walked by Barbara's house.  She grows many bonsai trees.  We asked her if she knew what the tree was.  "Clearly it's a River Birch," she says, "compare it to my little River Birch on the left."

It just so happened that at the same time I was trying to identify the tree, we walked by Barbara’s house. She grows many bonsai trees. “Clearly it’s a River Birch,” she says, “compare it to my little River Birch on the left.”

This leaf shows a wedge-shaped base typical of the River Birch.

This leaf shows a wedge-shaped base typical of the River Birch.

The weird thing about the leaf is that there are two different shapes.  This one shows a more squarish base.  That really threw me when trying to identify the type of tree.  Both leaves are from the same tree.  Does the age of the leaf determine the shape?

The weird thing about the leaf is that there are two different shapes. This one shows a more squarish base. That really threw me when trying to identify the type of tree. Both leaves are from the same tree. Does the age of the leaf determine the shape?

May 13, 2015...Looking at a bunch of leaves together, we can see various wedge shaped bases...some more acute than others.

May 13, 2015…Looking at a bunch of leaves together, we can see various wedge shaped bases…some more acute than others.

May 13, 2015...Looking upward into the umbrella, you can see the white bark limbs...

May 13, 2015…Looking upward into the umbrella, you can see the white bark limbs…

Cinnamon bark

…but looking at the trunk, you’ll see cinnamon colored bark.

According to Wikipedia, “Betula nigra (black birch, river birch, water birch) is a species of birch native to the Eastern United States from New Hampshire west to southern Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and west to Texas.”

It grows in the East, not the West.  I guess the jury is still out on the type of birch it is.

5-13-15...Big news today:  A ginormous swarm is moving INTO my Grand Kids Log hive today!

5-13-15…Big news today: A ginormous swarm is moving INTO my Grand Kids Log hive today!  Detailed post to follow.

 

 

 

 

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September 8, 2014...Post swarm day 33.  There's a shadow across her face.  I hope that's not a bad sign, but the bee math doesn't look good for her.

September 8, 2014…Post swarm day 33. There’s a shadow across her face. I hope that’s not a bad sign, but the bee math doesn’t look good for her.

I’ve looked at various charts explaining Bee Math, but I like the way Michael Bush puts it best…”If a hive just swarmed today, how long before the new queen is laying? Assuming this was the primary swarm, it usually leaves the day the first queen cell gets capped. So that means a new queen will emerge in 8 days. That queen may leave with another swarm or the workers may allow her to kill all the others and stay. Assuming she kills all the others (which are staggered in age, so they will emerge at different times if they do afterswarm) then she should be laying most likely two weeks later. So that’s about three weeks give or take a week. (two to four weeks).”

Bee-atrice swarmed a month and two days ago.  That makes it 33 days…(well past four weeks) She had built up fast having gotten occupied by a wild swarm only two months prior on June 6, 2014.

July 27, 2014...The most advanced stage of comb building before the swarm on August 7.  (I had planned to post a two month update on her strong progress, but she up and swarmed on me)

July 27, 2014…The most advanced stage of comb building before the swarm on August 7. (I had planned to post a two month update on her strong progress, but she up and swarmed on me)

 

August 8, 2014...Bee-atrice through the observation window exactly one month ago.  This shows how much comb was built in the two months the wild swarm occupied her.  This is the day after she had swarmed.

August 8, 2014…Bee-atrice through the observation window exactly one month ago. This shows how much comb was built in the two months the wild swarm occupied her. This is the day after she had swarmed.

August 8, 2014...Temperature holding steady at 93F.

August 8, 2014…Temperature holding steady at 93F…good for brood rearing.

September 8, 2014...And this is today.  Doesn't look like any more comb has been built, The number of bees hasn't increased.

September 8, 2014…And this is today. Doesn’t look like any more comb has been built, The number of bees hasn’t increased, and…

...and this is the awful final sign that things are not going well.  62F (16C) means there is no brood being laid.

…and this is the awful final sign that things are not going well. 62F (16C) means there are no eggs being laid.

Maybe I’m wrong, but math is math, and the numbers don’t look good for Bee-atrice.

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