Archive for the ‘Swarms’ Category

June 8, 2014...Bee-atrice has BEES.  It's been a rough time for her, but I think this one will take.

June 8, 2014…Bee-atrice has BEES. It’s been a rough time for her, but I think this one will take.

June 16, 2014...10th day of bees in Bee-atrice.  I think they will stay this time.

June 16, 2014…10th day of bees in Bee-atrice Log Hive.   I think they will stay this time.

While I was out of town, a huge prime swarm chose Bee-atrice Log Hive for a home.  I knew if we waited long enough, we’d get lucky…I just wish I could have witnessed the swarm moving in.  Bee-atrice was happy.  She had been rejected twice.  I had tried to console her after she had been rejected by two small swarms that I had given her.  I told her that “rejection” might more appropriately be referred to as “redirection.”  Those small swarms would not have made it anyway.  I told her that she just had to be patient until the right swarm came along.

April 27, 2014...Pat drops the little cast swarm into Bee-atrice.  They stay a total of two days, then take off to parts unknown.

April 27, 2014…I drop the little cast swarm into Bee-atrice log hive. They stay a total of two days, then take off for parts unknown.

May 25, 2014...A second chance presents itself, in the form of a swarm in the apple tree.  I get the swarm bucket ready.

May 25, 2014…A second chance presents itself, in the form of a swarm in the apple tree.   I bag it and drop it into Bee-atrice.  I thought for sure it would stay, but after 8 days, it took off for the Asian Pear tree.  I started thinking something was wrong with Bee-atrice…then it dawned on me…maybe I was the problem.  Maybe I should just back off and let nature take it’s course…thirteen days later (while I’m away), a huge swarm picks out Bee-atrice.   She later tells me, SHE rejected those little swarms, not the other way around.  I guess she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

June 9. 2014...lots of bee traffic at the entrance.

June 9. 2014…lots of bee traffic at the entrance.

June 10, 2014...This is the first time I've ever seen 94 degrees register on the thermometer.  This is the optimal temperature for brood.

June 10, 2014…This is the first time I’ve ever seen 94F degrees (34C) register on the thermometer. This is the optimal temperature for brood.  Three days ago it read 60 degrees (the ambient temperature)

June 9, 2014...the bees can be seen through the observation window.  If they stay, we'll be able to watch the comb building process.

June 9, 2014…the bees can be seen through the observation window.  If they stay, we’ll be able to watch the comb building process.

June 16, 2014...10th day, natural comb can be seen already, through the top side entrance.

June 16, 2014…10th day, natural comb can be seen already, through the top side entrance.

June 19, 2014...Day 13, this is where the bees hang out at night while they are waiting for the comb to be built.

June 19, 2014…Day 13, this is where the bees hang out at night while they are waiting for the comb to be built.

June 19, 2014...In this slightly out of focus shot, you can see how far the bees have built the natural comb...almost to the top of the observation window...a length of about 14 inches (35 cm).

June 19, 2014…Day 13, in this slightly out of focus shot, you can see how far the bees have built the natural comb…almost to the top of the observation window…a length of about 14 inches (35 cm).

Drones dropping down every time I uncover the observation window…

The carving of Bee-atrice.

Getting her ready for a swarm last year.

Bee-atrice’s debut

A Bonnet for Bee-atrice

Two month’s later Bee-atrice’s swarm chooses Bee Beard Log Hive

 

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May 11, 2014...This little nuc hive survived the winter without any help from me.  No sugar feeding or pollen paddies. (Tough love)

May 11, 2014…This little nuc hive survived the winter in a tree without any help from me. No sugar feeding or pollen paddies supplied. (Tough love) No honey was taken.  It came from a swarm on April 18, 2013.  Now it’s ready to swarm.

Bees revving it up to make their move

Bees revving it up to make their move

Ten minutes later, the bees appear to be headed back into the hive.

Ten minutes later, the bees appear to be headed back into the hive.  Later in the day, all was quiet.

May 19, 2014 (8 days later)...A swarm starts to form in the bamboo.   Could this be two swarms from the same hive?

May 19, 2014 (8 days later)…A swarm starts to form in the bamboo.
Could this be two swarms from the same hive?

May 19, 2014...While the swarm is forming on the bamboo, bees are fanning at entrance to tree hive.

May 19, 2014…While the swarm is forming on the bamboo, bees are fanning at the entrance to the tree hive.

By late afternoon, all the bees returned to the tree hive.

May 20, 2014 (next day)...A small swarm in the blackberries...

May 20, 2014 (next day)…A small swarm in the blackberries…

...and a small swarm in the bamboo.

…and a small swarm in the bamboo.

Again, a small group of bees are fanning at the entrance, while other bees are flying around the two swarms.

Again, a small group of bees are fanning at the entrance to the tree hive, while other bees are flying around the two swarms.

Could it be that the queen can’t/won’t fly?  It came from a swarm, so I know it’s wings haven’t been clipped.  I guess I’ll find out in the next few days what is going on, but if a more experienced beekeeper wants to hazard a guess, I’d be curious.

In looking back at where this swarm originated from…from my log hive, on April 18, 2013.  The swarm picked this patch of bamboo to settle in.

May 21...I checked to see if the swarm was still in the bamboo this morning.  It was.

May 21…I checked to see if the swarm was still in the bamboo this morning. It was.

A closer look reveals that while small, this swarm might be big enough to make it.

A closer look reveals that while small, this swarm might be big enough to make it.  I called Bob to see if he still was interested in getting  swarms for his Kenyan Top Bar Hives.  He was.

Bob bags his first swarm.

Bob bags his first swarm.  Bee Beard Log Hive looks on, as patient and quiet as ever.

Bob said he was interested in getting the blackberry swarm too.  It went very well.  Here the bees are fanning to indicate the queen is within.

Bob said he was interested in getting the blackberry swarm too. It went very well. Here the bees are fanning to indicate the queen is within.

Bob was patient when I asked him to pose with the blackberry swarm in bucket...hey, I've got to bid them 'goodbye.'

Bob gets his second swarm.  “Two in one day,” not bad for a new beekeeper!

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…that’s when she called me.

May 1, 2014 Mid afternoon...Photo by Mary Schamehorn.  I'm glad Mary got a shot of this.  When I got there, they were relatively peaceful.

May 1, 2014 mid afternoon…Photo by Mary Schamehorn. I’m glad Mary got a shot of this. When I got there, they were relatively peaceful.

4:38 pm...By the time I got there, the bees had settled in.

4:38 pm…By the time I got there, the bees had settled within the birdhouse.  I looked at it, determined I could remove it from the post, and got my tools together.  Ha ha, the screws were rusty I couldn’t get them to budge before stripping them out.  I had to remove the post too.

I placed the birdhouse next to the newly assembled and baited  Warre hive.   I was hoping the bees would recognize a 4 star lodge with ample room to grow.

I placed it  next to the newly assembled and baited Warre hive in my bee garden.  I was hoping the bees would recognize a 4 star lodging with ample room to grow…they didn’t.  I gave them plenty of time to reconsider, but they weren’t having it.  I couldn’t leave them there, like that.  I didn’t want to grind the brackets off or pry the birdhouse floor off because it would have been too stressful.  “Dramatic and traumatic” are words I like to avoid in beekeeping.

Okay, I’ve got to move the birdhouse out of the bee garden because, well, we’ve got to be able to weed and water without the bees buzzing us.  After two days, I pre-dug a post hole, waited til night and ‘posted’ the birdhouse among the ferns about 20 feet away.  (Something most beekeepers would tell you NOT to do because the bees might not be able to find their way back to the hive.)  I stuffed tissue paper into the entrance hole so the bees would notice something was different.  They would have to make orientation flights all over again.  I’m thinking that maybe the Warre was too close to the birdhouse…if I move it away, maybe they will want it more.  My wife said I was crazy to think that.  I says, ‘maybe,’ but we’ve got to get it out of the way.

 

Next day, the birdhouse/hive is in it's new location.  The bees are aware something is different because of the tissue paper stuffed in the entrance hole.

Next day, the birdhouse/hive is in it’s new location. The bees are aware something is different because of the tissue paper stuffed in the entrance hole.

 

As I wife bicycled to town, I noticed a bunch of activity between the birdhouse and the Warre hive.  I got my camera to document my findings...I was going to have it on camera so I could show my wife I knew what I was doing.

As my wife bicycled to town, I noticed a bunch of activity between the birdhouse and the Warre hive. I got my camera to document my findings…I was going to have it on camera so I could show her I knew what I was doing.  They are fanning from the nasonov gland to indicate the queen is within.  Wow, that didn’t take long.  My wife is going to have to admit I was right, but I’ll be humble and admit it’s just a stroke of luck.  But it was too good to be true.  By the time she returned the crowd at the entrance was thinning and the bees rejected this hive once again.

 

Here is where they will stay.  It's the house they chose and while the location has changed a few times, the house is the same.

Here is where they will stay. It’s the house they chose and while the location has changed a few times, the house is the same.  I just wish I could have fastened it to a taller post.

Mary's bees have settled in now.  They have discovered the Poached egg meadowfoam.

Mary’s bees have settled in now. They have discovered the Poached egg meadowfoam.

Mary's bee cleaning off her antennae.  How do I know they are Mary's bees?  The abdomen colors are different.  I'm happy to get new genetics in my bee yard.

Mary’s bee cleaning off her antennae. How do I know they are Mary’s bees? The abdomen colors are different. I’m happy to get new genetics in my bee yard.

Mayor Mary’s side of the story…   (Scroll towards the bottom til you see the birdhouse swarm)

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April 22, 2014...Swarm in short tree.  Baited nuc hive very close.

April 22, 2014…Swarm in short tree. Baited nuc hive very close.  Wife says, “DO NOT CUT MY TREE.”  The bees refused to enter this hive.  Hal waits four days…no luck.  He gets a bigger hive.

April 24, 2014...Hal coaxes the bees in, opens the lid briefly to show us the bees, before closing everything up.

April 24, 2014…With a bigger hive consisting of two Westerns, Hal coaxes the bees in, opens the lid briefly to show us the bees, before closing everything up.

 

 

Hal cinches the belt so we don't have to worry about the hive sliding open and bees flying around our heads.

Cinches the belt so we don’t have to worry about the hive sliding open and bees flying around our heads while driving back.

April 24, 2014...This is the log hive where the bees swarmed from.

April 24, 2014…This is the log hive where the bees swarmed from.

January 22, 2014...Same log hive, the bees are clustering up high.

January 22, 2014…Same log hive, many fewer bees which are clustering up high.

Ready to roll, back to home.

Hive loaded into car, we are good to go!

April 25, 2014...Day 1.  Bees still here.

Next morning…Day 1. Bees still here.

April 27, 2014...Day 3.  The bees seem to be happy.  Maybe they will stay.

April 27, 2014…Day 3. The bees are flying well.  Looks like they have accepted the move.  Thank you, Hal, for getting us bees that have not been medicated, treated with mite strips or even fed with anything but their natural unadulterated honey.

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The Steinkraus-Morse Swarm Catcher is called into action.

Whenever we find a swarm much above eye level,  the Steinkraus-Morse Swarm Catcher is called into action.  You can make one by cutting the bottom out of a plastic flower pot and attaching a cloth sack.  The height is adjustable by the length of bamboo used.  Many thanks to Don Steinkraus for writing about it, and Terry Kelly of Berkeley for sending it to me.  It’s invaluable.

I consider myself a ‘natural beekeeper.’  I don’t make splits, raise my own queens, or buy package bees.  I let the bees swarm.  I believe in the adage, “Swarming Bees are Healthy Bees.”  Having said that, when the bees swarm, we have to catch them.  If they swarm into the bamboo, it’s lower to the ground, but difficult to get.  If they swarm into the spruce tree, they generally cluster up high.  The first one this year formed high, then re-formed to a lower more reachable area.

Pipe hangers to attach a length of bamboo.

Pipe holders for a length of bamboo to slip into.

Sew in a curve to avoid trapping bees in a corner.

Sew in a curve to avoid trapping bees in a corner.

Velcro attaches the sack to the cut off flower pot.

Velcro attaches the sack to the cut off flower pot.My first swarm this year happened last week.  I was busy with printing deadlines when my wife shouted, “WE HAVE A SWARM!”  The bees seem to like this spruce tree.  It’s been the scene for three swarms now, two of which we have caught.

Centering the catcher under the swarm.

Centering the catcher under the swarm.

The idea is to position the catcher under the swarm before bumping the branch to make the bees fall directly into the sack.  Last year I was able to ‘pop’ the branch upward to get a bunch of bees all at once.  This time it didn’t go as planned.  The bees clung to the branch.  When I ‘popped the branch,’  They started flying around and getting all defensive.  The camera lady was concerned (maybe because we were both getting stung) so we didn’t get the action on video.  The next morning we were more successful.  We trimmed a few branches and I was able to ‘pop’ the branch from above.  The bees fell into the sack, the sack was emptied into the empty Warre, and all is well as of day 4.

April 15, 2014...This is day 4.  I'm assuming the bees have decided to stay.

April 15, 2014…This is day 4. I’m assuming the bees have decided to stay.

April 15, 2014...the bees can be seen through the observation window.  Chaining to 'measure' for building natural comb.

April 15, 2014…the bees can be seen through the observation window. Chaining to ‘measure’ for building natural comb.

I've heard about this bee sting remedy...soften up the end of a clove of garlic.  Rub it onto the sting.  It seems to relieve the pain and the swelling.

I’m sure you’ve seen the you-tube video of the guy putting his  bare hand into a swarm of bees.  As I suited up to get this newly formed swarm, I’m thinking, “what a sissy I am.  The swarm just formed, they’re not going to sting.”  Let’s just say, I’m glad I was suited up.  I was able to give this bee sting remedy a good test.  By softening up the end of a clove of garlic, rubbing it onto the stings to relieve the pain and the swelling, I can report that it worked well on all our stings.

I have to thank Ron of www.biobees.com.  If you daub some of this around the sting area, it will cover up the bee's alarm pheramone...just don't daub it on your sting because it can be much more painful than the sting itself.

I found out about peppermint oil from one of the bee forums.  If you daub some of it around the sting area, it will cover up the bee’s alarm pheromone…just don’t daub it directly on your sting because it can be much more painful than the sting itself.  Believe me, I know.

Catching the bees  into the Steinkraus-Morse Swarm Catcher video

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This hive swarmed the very next day.  Then it went on to throw 5 more swarms that we know about.  Today, (mid January, 2014) it's our strongest hive.

This hive swarmed the very next day. Then it went on to throw 5 more swarms that we know about. Today, (mid January, 2014) it’s still our strongest hive with no intervention.

Whenever the subject of making splits, pulling off queen cells, or otherwise trying to prevent the hive from swarming comes up at the bee meeting, I am always reluctant to entertain the idea.  To me it just didn’t sound natural.  What guarantee would I have that I am selecting the best queen cells.  But I can’t argue with the more experienced beekeepers because, well, I’m a new beekeeper with no experience.  Recently I came across an article in Simple Bees,  written  by John Haverson, a British Beekeeper.  He presents some compelling reasons why we should let the bees decide for themselves.  Swarming Bees Healthy Bees Haverson

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My Perone hive, showing the brood box (24 inches in length, width and depth), one super and the roof.  Construction was of Douglas Fir with the exterior thin-coated with linseed oil.  Materials cost about $140 including the concrete footed mounting frame and a sheet of galvinized metal for the roof.

Vernon’s Perone hive, showing the brood box (24 inches in length, width and depth), one super and the roof. Construction was of Douglas Fir with the exterior thin-coated with linseed oil. Materials cost about $140 including the concrete footed mounting frame and a sheet of galvanized metal for the roof.

When my first Warre hive was threatening to swarm, I knew I was in trouble.  I didn’t want any more hives but I wanted to give it to someone who would really appreciate a prime swarm.  I found out about Vernon through the new bee keeping network of Oregon South Coast Beekeepers Association…he had just built a Perone hive.  He wanted a swarm rather than package bees.  That was me a year ago.  The bees swarmed on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013.  We handed him a bucket of bees a day later, but I didn’t want to leave it at that,  I had never seen a Perone hive before and wanted to see how big it was…I wanted to make sure our bees had a good home.

He sent me these photos and his details…

The plans I used to construct my hive are on-line:

http://peronehive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Making-a-Perone-Hive.pdf

The authors are from Chile so the useful dimensions are in metric.  Perone insists that the internal dimensions of the brood box be 57 X 57 X 57cm, which is 184.5 liters.  Each of his supers is 32.5 liters.  Whenever I converted to English units I adjusted the measurements slightly for convenience.  My brood box is built of 1 X 6 inch lumber, which of course actually measures 3/4 X 5 1/2 inches.

Stacking 4 boards on edge gave me a brood box 22 inches in height (not including the floor which is 3/4 inch thick).    The outside dimensions for length and width were 24 X 24 inches, so the interior dimensions were 22 1/2 X 22 1/2 inches

Stacking 4 boards on edge gave me a brood box 22 inches in height (not including the floor which is 3/4 inch thick). The outside dimensions for length and width were 24 X 24 inches, so the interior dimensions were 22 1/2 X 22 1/2 inches

Scrap lumber sticks placed inside the brood chamber to help support the expected massive comb loads.

Scrap lumber sticks placed inside the brood chamber to help support the expected massive comb loads.

The height of my supers is 4 1/2 inches rather than the 4 inches recommended by Perone.  I measured my bars in metric (24 cm height and width, which is about 15/16 inches) and cut them on a circular saw from 2 inch cross-section stock.

There were 49 bars: 17 bars for the brood comb spaced 9mm apart, and 16 bars each for the two supers, spaced 10 mm apart.

There were 49 bars: 17 bars for the brood comb spaced 9mm apart, and 16 bars each for the two supers, spaced 10 mm apart.

Perone insists that the brood comb bars be 9mm apart because he feels this helps the bees maintain optimal brood comb temperature to fight infestations.  Also, that spacing is preferred by the queen, so an excluder isn’t needed to keep her in the brood box.

Note the lower entry and 2 inch deep landing strip.  The metal strip above the entry is a mouse guard.  The upper landing strip is also attached to the brood box.

Note the lower entry and 2 inch deep landing strip. The metal strip above the entry is a mouse guard. The upper landing strip is also attached to the brood box.

My gabled roof has a 5 1/2 inch peak and the ridge is 31 1/2 inches long.  The roofing is made from 1/6 inch boards and is covered by galvanized sheet metal.

My gabled roof has a 5 1/2 inch peak and the ridge is 31 1/2 inches long. The roofing is made from 1 x 6  inch boards and is covered by galvanized sheet metal.

Side view of the hive just after the swarm dump.  Everyone's confused!

Side view of the hive just after the swarm dump. Everyone’s confused!

It wasn't long before scouts returned and started their waggle-dance.

It wasn’t long before scouts returned and started their waggle-dance.

I asked Vernon if he would consider shooting a video of the bees…

This video was shot  on May 23rd about 9 days after installation.

Some updates below…

On Aug 3, 2013, at 10:50 PM, Vernon Strength <eurekawriters@yahoo.com> wrote:

Today I removed the super from my Perone hive and had a chance to look down through the brood box grid bars.  The attached photo shows that the bees have been building weird comb: rather small, all in the southeast corner, cross-combed to the extreme, and the comb cells between the bars are oriented “up.”  After almost three months the population of the hive seems about the same as the original swarm.

Obviously, my inclusion of a super from the beginning was a dumb idea.  The colony isn’t going to come close to filling their brood box by winter, much less a super.  My only defense is that I believed the South American beekeepers’ claims of rapid proliferation in the first few months.

Now the roof lid is directly over the brood box bars, almost touching them, so maybe the bees won’t be able to move over the top of the bars so easily to produce vertically-oriented brood cells.  That might reduced cross-combing, too.  Still, it’s already August and I don’t think there is time before winter for the bees to change their ways and build enough aligned combs towards the center of the grid.  They will have a hard time increasing their numbers significantly in their present nest, which may also be hard for them to heat in winter.  I can’t think of anything else to do now that I’ve removed the super.  Unless you have any suggestions I’ll follow the Perone philosophy and let the bees figure it out.

Vernon

On Aug 26, 2013, at 12:42 AM, Vernon Strength <eurekawriters@yahoo.com> wrote:

The population of the Perone hive colony seems to have increased significantly in the last few days, based on the unprecedented numbers entering and leaving the hive entryway.  Maybe they’ve increased their numbers for a last big food gathering push before winter.  It’s still a mystery what they are foraging on; they still fly straight up and over some big trees and disappear when they leave the hive, and they return from the same direction.  Lots of bumblebees have foraged around my house, but zero honeybees.

Last time I gave you an update I was concerned that there was so much cross-combing, and the comb was smaller than I’d expected.  It appears that the oddball comb has produced lots of brood though, the comb is ugly but functional, so I’m going to follow the Perone approach and leave the bees to gather their own supplies.  If this colony doesn’t make it through the winter I’m going to feel like a murderer.

I’ve started building another Perone hive using lessons learned from this first one.  The main difference is a 11in X 16.5in observation window.  I’m going to mount the new hive on the same platform with the first one, but probably the entry will face in the opposite direction so the bees won’t get confused about which entry to use.

Ciao,

Vernon

November 26, 2013…I took my new & improved Perone hive to the beekeeper’s meeting in Gold Beach last Thursday and got a lot of interest.  In fact, Del is thinking of using something similar while he’s in the Peace Corps. The new version has two large picture windows so I won’t be completely in the dark about activities inside the hive the way I am now.  The day-before-yesterday I checked the first hive when the weather was damp and in the low-to-mid 50’s and there were no signs of life.  I put my ear to the side wall but could hear nothing, so I lightly rapped it with my knuckles and three bees came out to see what was going on.  I concluded that the hive was simply hunkered down inside due to foul weather.  Really, I’m not sure what the temperature was outside, though I have two thermometers that weren’t cheap.  It’s nearly impossible to find a mercury thermometer anymore:  The alcohol substitutes are safe but inaccurate.  When I compare thermometers at a store they always show different readings (i.e., two different thermometers of the same make & model may have readings over 5 degrees apart).  The Italian bees we are keeping are apparently notorious for taking the day off when it’s coolish outside.  My friend Steve Sottong of Eureka recovered a swarm he claims was about 3X the volume of mine.  His bees are little and black, probably the species native to Great Britain, and they forage when it’s in the high 40’s.

Del suggested again that  I feed my bees.  His idea had some appeal:  Hang a Christmas candy cane from a top bar using a string or thin flexible wire.  Of course, once I do that I no longer have a “pure” Perone experiment going, so I’m torn.  Maybe the foragers are still finding nectar.  Lots of ivy grows around my neighborhood, and some weed flowers still persist.

November 28, 2013…Well, my (inaccurate) thermometer reads 61 damp degrees and my foragers are out in moderate numbers, moving verrrry slowwwly.  The bees appear healthy so I’m attributing their lethargy to the cool moist weather and perhaps advanced age.  I can tell the bees I’m seeing are all experienced veterans because they approach the small entryway so accurately.  The inexperienced foragers I observed in mid-summer came in crazy-fast and usually crash-landed on the runway, sometimes banging their heads against the hive walls or landing on other bees.  Anyway, nothing worrisome to report regarding the colony.

Vernon

January 24, 2014…The Perone bees are busy foraging this morning, taking advantage of the unseasonable 64 degree F. (17.7 C) temperature.  I’ve still never fed them.  Hopefully they are finding nectar someplace (the myrtle trues seem to have buds).

Vernon

Solarbeez says…Hi Vernon,  I’m so glad you decided not to feed.  I’ve been reading Michael Bush’s book, “The Practical Beekeeper.”  He talks about the pH of the hive.  When you feed sugar, it raises the pH of the hive which makes it more susceptible to nosema.

The only hive I’m feeding is the Warre, but I’m going to discontinue that.  I never took any honey, but I CAVED IN  to the temptation to feed them dry sugar.  The other two hives are not getting fed and they seem to be fine.

Here’s another Michael Bush quote you won’t see anywhere else… On Page 435…
“Pathogens?
Even some seemingly pathogenic organisms such as Aspergillus fumigatus which causes stonebrood, supplants worse pathogens, in this case Nosema.  Or Ascosphaera apis which causes Chalkbrood but prevents European Foulbrood.”

Thanks for the update.

Pat

January 26, 2014...a bee with orange pollen entering hive.  Does that indicate the queen has started to lay?

January 26, 2014…The Perone bees are collecting from a different pollen source today, a golden yellow variety.

January 26, 2014...The only flowers I see in my yard are on these myrtle trees, which locals also call pepperwoods or bays.  Of course, my bees never forage around my yard so I don't know their actual pollen source.

January 26, 2014…The only flowers I see in my yard are on these myrtle trees, which locals also call pepperwoods or bays. Of course, my bees never forage around my yard so I don’t know their actual pollen source.

February 10, 2014...Vernon says, "After a few days of rain the foragers are again out in force, and they are collecting more golden-yellow pollen than ever.  This winter has been so warm and dry I'm not sure the Perone hive is getting an adequate test."

February 10, 2014…Vernon says, “After a few days of rain the foragers are again out in force, and they are collecting more golden-yellow pollen than ever. This winter has been so warm and dry I’m not sure the Perone hive is getting an adequate test.”

Vernon’s entries:

February 19, 2014…Drove to Crescent City this afternoon and Queen Anne’s Lace weeds were blooming all along the road.

February 22, 2014…The foragers are out today in about the same numbers I saw during the summer.  It’s likely the colony considers that Spring has arrived.  A few dead or dying workers were on the ground below the entrance, probably over-winter bees that have been replaced by the next generation.  I believe the queen started laying during the mid-January warm spell.  About 20% of the foragers are bringing back golden-yellow pollen, which Carla believes comes from Myrtle trees.  Odd that our west coast winter has been so mild while the east coast has been frigid and stormy.

March 27, 2014…

I’m hoping to finish my second Perone hive this weekend. Will send photos when I do. I also want to write a summary of my conclusions after taking a Perone hive through the winter without feeding or treating or helping them in any way. My friend Steve in Eureka lost 5 of his 6 Langs, including the one that housed the huge swarm I wrote you about (small, cold-adapted black bees from northern Europe). He’s looking into setting up a horizontal hive.

Of course I’m in need of a swarm. Please let me know if you hear of one available.

Vernon

March 27, 2014…Pat’s reply

My congratulations on getting through the winter without feeding or treating. I welcome your conclusions on that.  I understand your second hive will have an observation window.  You’re going to love it.

My log hive has bees that are fanning.   I think they might be getting crowded.  Last year the first swarm was on a hot 80˙F day on March 31.  If the weather settles down, that could happen again this year.   The first swarm has been promised away for a swarm swap.  I’m debating whether to keep it (if that person’s hive isn’t ready) or give it away to try to get different genetics.  I’m hoping my other log hive will attract a swarm without me interfering.

If Vernon sends photos, I will post them here.

April 26, 2014  Lessons Learned

Last May I introduced a swarm of moderate size into a Perone mk2 hive. The colony survived the winter and appears to be thriving.   Since the hive has no observation windows I infer colony condition by watching the numbers and behaviors of individuals who venture out.

The hive is located in mixed woodlands on the northern California coast, USDA plant hardiness zone 9b. Winter was warmer than usual this year, with only one hard freeze. While it may be argued that survival through a mild winter isn’t an adequate test of the Perone design and philosophy, it remains that beekeepers in my area with carefully-tended Langstroth hives reported roughly the same high losses this year as previously.

Hopefully the success of my hive will encourage others to try Perone hives. I strictly followed the Perone approach of benign neglect.

  1. I never fed my bees. They were industrious foragers and didn’t appear to need any sugar water. At times it was difficult to resist feeding, because experienced beekeepers I respect advised me in the strongest terms to either feed my bees or watch them die. They cited seasonal stoppages of nectar flows (while flowers were in bloom) and pollen production (when pollen.com warned allergy sufferers in my area of high pollen counts). Swarms were represented as particularly vulnerable to starvation. My bees proved the experts wrong. Apparently feeding is so strongly entrenched in our beekeeping culture that it will persist superstitiosly no matter what.

Hive inspections. I never opened my hive to check the condition of the comb. Typically beekeepers open their hives at least monthly to check for diseases, monitor comb development, and discourage swarming.

Disease treatment: I never observed disease syptoms in my Perone bees. Of course they were given the “preventative medicine” of a Perone hive. The design of the Perone hive discourages disease through a more natural, healthful, undisturbed environment, and the relatively large populations of Perone colonies encourage thorough hygiene and robust reactions to parasite infestation. However, I do kill every yellowjacket I see.

Monitoring comb development: The only apparent benefit of monitoring comb is that it’s fascinating for the beekeeper. The removeable frames or top bars of more traditional hives encourage maniputation of comb positions. For example, one of my colleagues found that some of his Langstroth hives were “honey bound.” These hives had a few brood frames located between frames of mostly honey, which he said inhibited the development of more brood. In response he moved the honey frames to outside positions to encourage more brood nearer the center. My colleagues often switch frames between hives. For example, if a hive is producing more brood and less honey than what is considered optimal a honey frame is brought in from another hive and exchanged for an “excess” brood frame.

Drone cells and queen cells are often destroyed, as they consider worthless. Most destroy the “swarm cells” of developing queens to avoid population reduction in their hives due to swarming. Many “re-queen” (killed the queen and introduced a new one) when brood development doesn’t meet their expectations.

These are the same beekeepers who report 30-40% losses or worse over the winter and attribute the survival of my colony to luck. I never inspected the comb in my Perone hive—for all I know it may be “honey bound” and full of drone and swarm cells—but it seems to be working.

The value of swarms: The swarm introduced into my Perone hive appeared very organized from the beginning. Foragers quickly set out in all directions, returned in an excited state, and congregated for waggle-dancing on the landing platform in front of the hive entry. After the first day the foragers I observed always left my yard and returned from the same direction. From this I infer that the foragers quickly found an optimal feeding area and returned to it regularly thereafter.

Last week I introduced a 3 pound package of purchased bees into a second Perone hive. So far these bees appear disorganized compared to the swarm. It took several hours for the package bees introduced inside the hive to discover and regularly use the single entryway, compared to about 20 minutes for the swarm. And I never saw the package bees waggle dance. Now, after a week, the foragers continue to meander around, each in her own direction, without urgency.

My theory is that a swarm is more specialized to establish a new colony than most beekeepers appreciate. The swarm population seems to be made up of an appropriate number of workers specialized to perform each of the needed functions. It’s known that individuals carry enough supplies in their bodies to begin the processes. By contrast, package bees are shaken off frames pulled from established hives without regard for the functions the workers are currently performing. Then they are packaged with an unfamiliar queen and shipped off with some syrup to eat. What an awful start for a colony! In this first week I’ve observed a disturbing number of dead bees from the package bee colony.

Other hive maintenance. My hive is mounted on concrete foundation blocks that settled over the winter. The hive is no longer level. After some consideration I decided not to level the hive. There are no rigid frames in a Perone hive, so the bees are free to angle their comb building to adjust for settling. Returning the hive back to level would require the bees to readjust.

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I just love standing on this bridge and seeing all the work Hal and Patti have done.  It's so beautiful.

I just love standing on this bridge and seeing all the work Hal and Patti have done. It’s so beautiful.

Hal called me up last week to say he took some video of a bee swarm flying INTO his unoccupied bee log.  I’m thinking “Well, that’s a first.  Whenever I see a swarm, they are flying OUT of something…like a hive.”  I had to see this.  While I was there I shot some photos of all the work they have done.  I draw inspiration every time I visit.  It was here that I learned about sedum and what a wonderful bee loving flower that is. There is so much color here, so many flowers.  It surely takes hard work and dedication to keep everything looking so good.

When I first saw all the bees sipping nectar on these sedum, I knew I wanted a bunch.  It's clear it's nectar they are after...I didn't see a speck of pollen in their pollen baskets.

When I first saw all the bees sipping nectar on these sedum, I knew I wanted a bunch. It’s clear it’s nectar they are after…I didn’t see a speck of pollen in their pollen baskets.  This photo was shot at Patti’s garden in September 2012

It didn't take long for the bees to set up home. They  swarmed INTO this log, April 18.

It didn’t take long for the bees to set up home. They swarmed INTO this log, April 18.

Patti's gunnera growing under the bridge

Patti’s gunnera is growing under the bridge

Hal and Patti on bridge, May 10, 2013

Hal and Patti on bridge, May 10, 2013

This video shows the swarm of bees moving INTO the  vacated log hive.  Hal explains what is going on as he shoots the video on his iPhone.

All this is natural comb, built in less than two months from when the bees swarmed INTO the log hive.

All this is natural comb, built in less than two months from when the bees swarmed INTO the log hive.

Hal’s first log hives

Hal talks about his log hive

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Bees, bees, bees

Bees, bees, bees

My daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter were visiting us on Mother’s Day.  It was about noon, we were eating lunch…my wife spots this horde of bees.  “It’s a swarm!”  We all rush out to see it.  I think it probably came from the Warre hive that’s been threatening to swarm for over two weeks.  Son-in-law says, “What can I do to help you capture it?”  My wife says, “Oh, thank you, Jim, I didn’t want to have to do it.”

We let the bees coalesce on a branch.

A nicely shaped swarm

They settled down into a nicely shaped swarm about 12 feet (4 m) up.

This calls for the Steinkrauss-Morse swarm retriever

This calls for the Steinkrauss-Morse swarm retriever

A Bucket of Bees

A Bucket of Bees

"The queen is over here..."

“The queen is over here…”  Bee stick their abdomen up in the air to fan the pheromone letting stragglers know where the queen is.

It was a win, win, win.  My son-in-law, Jim Montgomery provided much needed assistance in corralling the swarm, my daughter was able to capture the whole event with the camera, and my wife was able to spend more time with our granddaughter.

Where did the bucket of bees go?  Well, I would have liked to put it into Bee-atrice log hive  because it’s a ‘prime’ swarm, but Bee-atrice was already occupied.  I found someone who didn’t want package bees.  He has built a Perone style hive.  It’s a BIG hive.  I like his attitude…”The Perone hive is built for the bees, not the bee keeper.  It’ll hold about 150,000 bees.  I’ll let them build their own comb.”  We arrange for the ‘hand-over,’ and meet at a very scenic state park along the Oregon Coast.

There are 17 top bars where the bees will build their comb.

Vernon built his own Perone hive.  He brought the framework holding 17 top bars where the bees will build their natural comb.  He held it up so we could see how big the hive will be.  In the background you can see why I wanted to live on The Oregon Coast.

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5-6-13...at 10:40 am there is an audible humming...the bees are revving up already.

5-6-13…at 10:40 am there is an audible humming…the bees are revving up already.

I had heard about ‘tanging’ recently (banging a spoon on a cooking pot when bees start to swarm to get them to land close by and down low).  I tried it out three times last week and it seemed to work.  All three times were with one hive and all three times, the ‘swarm’ calmed down and went back into the hive after about 15 minutes.  That seemed to be proof beyond a doubt the tanging worked.  The third time I tried it out, I took video of it which can bee seen below…

On Saturday, May 4, they started in again about 10 or 11 am.  My wife was not happy that she was doing all the work in our veggie garden while I was happily shooting video on the bees, so the bees had to do their thing while I had to do my thing.  After 15 minutes of frenzied flying, they settled down again with no tanging.  So there goes my theory.

On Sunday they were fine.  On Monday they get all worked up again.  Seems like there are lots more.  I don’t have time to catch an impending swarm so I tang again to try to keep it close.

 At 10-47, I start tanging to keep the swarm as close to home as possible.

At 10-47, I start tanging to keep the swarm as close to home as possible.

Temperature at 66 deg. F (less than 20 deg. C)  They wouldn't be bearding, would they?

Temperature at 66 deg. F (less than 20 deg. C) They wouldn’t be bearding, would they?

At 11:02 more bees are flying out.  Some are flying excitedly above the hive as well as crawling onto the side.

At 11:02 more bees are flying out. Some are flying excitedly above the hive as well as crawling onto the side.

At 11:05 there are quite a few  on the front, but fewer are flying around and they are flying lower.

At 11:05 there are quite a few on the front, but fewer are flying around and they are flying lower.

At 11:07 they are definitely calming now and actually filing back into the hive.

At 11:07 they are definitely calming now and actually filing back into the hive.

At 4:38 pm, I checked on them again.  Looks like they decided to stay on the outside.

At 4:38 pm, I checked on them again. Looks like they decided to stay on the outside.

I shot this video and sped it up in parts to keep it relatively short.  It was shot on May 3, so you can see the difference in the size of the ‘swarm,’ if it is a swarm…but if it isn’t, then what is it?

Starting the Tanging Experiment

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