Friday, April 27, 2012

A New (Old) Apiary

So I set those Conshy bees up in a new apiary, a location where I have kept bees in the past - The Spring Gardens Community Garden. Just in case you haven't read all of the posts on my blog (!), here are some stories from the good ol' days when I kept bees in the Spring Gardens way, way back in 2009: Bees in My Britches (a must read!) and The Waiting.

Those original Spring Garden bees didn't survive their first winter and I wasn't a hearty enough soul to continue climbing up on top of that shipping container to put more bees up there, so I focused on my other apiaries. Time passed and a few months ago I got wind that a new beekeeper and Garden member (Karen) was planning to keep bees in the garden this year. And then, knowing that I had kept bees there in the past, Karen contacted me to ask for my advice and help. So I gladly offered my input, not expecting to actually have any bees there myself. Karen had planned on keeping one hive at the garden but the beekeeping committee got the OK to place two hives there, so Karen asked if anyone else wanted to set up a hive. I jumped at the opportunity because I think its a great place for bees and I really enjoy being in there myself AND the bees would have a nice, new home in a cozy evergreen corner of the garden. Thanks Karen, for all of your work in getting this set up!   

Setting up the Conshy swarm in a new hive was a breeze thanks to the bee vac set-up I used for catching the swarm. Basically I just needed to plop the box with the bees (frames already in there) onto a bottom board and voila - instant hive! We had a few onlookers and helpers, which is always fun. I set the bees up around 5:00pm and by 1:00pm the next day, they were already bringing in beautiful yellow pollen. Thanks to Karen's hubby for taking pictures!

Getting Things Ready

Leveling the Bottom Board of the Hive

Placing Hive on Bottom Board and Removing Top of Bee Vac

Apprentice Beekeeper

Taking a Quick Look at the Bees

Feeding the Bees Some Crystallized Honey

View of Center City From Behind the Hive

The Bee Corral!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First Honey Bee Swarm of the Year!

As usual, it's been months since I wrote but I'll spare you the typical lame excuses. It was an incredibly mild winter in Philly and the bees barely stopped working all winter. They have built up quickly and some of my hives are booming already, looking like they usually do in summer. I went into the winter with 8 hives and I lost 2, both of which were weak and small at the end of last fall. I should have combined those two into one hive, which would have given them a better chance to survive the winter.

I am guessing it will be a busy year for swarming as hives build up quickly and take beekeepers by surprise (hopefully not my hives, but I wouldn't be shocked!). I had my first swarm call last week and I successfully captured and re-homed the bees. The bees swarmed from a colony living in the walls of a house in Conshohocken. I am scheduled to remove the colony from the house in early June. The swarm settled in the neighbor's yard on a peach tree. The day they swarmed was a gorgeous sunny day, but I didn't get there until the next day, which was cold and rainy. I think there is a good chance these girls would not have made it if I didn't grab them because the next two days were nasty.

The swarm was clustered on a two fairly thick branches, about 7 feet up in the tree, so I wouldn't be able to cut these branches off. I set up a ladder so I could get closer to the swarm. I would have to quickly shake/jar the branches to get the swarm to fall off.

When I shook the tree, about half of the bees went into the box (not shown in picture), a quarter of the bees ended up on the lawn and another quarter were still in the tree. At first I wasn't sure if the queen ended up in the box, but within 5 minutes or so, I saw bees fanning and spreading Nasonov pheromone at the entrance, which is a sure sign that the queen was in da' house. I moved the box to the ground to get the bees from the lawn. If you look at this crappy video, you can see a bunch of bees flying into the hole and also some bees marching on the grass towards the entrance as they pick up the scent of the Nasonov pheromone and reunite themselves with the colony.


Once most of the bees from the ground were in the hive, I moved the box back up to the ladder to get the bees that had reclustered on the tree. As a side note, I used the box from the Bushkill bee vac setup, which I find awesome for catching swarms.

I strapped the box on the ladder to secure it and I left it there for a few hours to give the bees a chance to rejoin their sisters and queen mama inside of the box. When I returned later in the afternoon, 99% of the bees had moved into the box, with just a small handful of stragglers holding out. I left them there, hoping that they would rejoin their parent colony back in the walls of the house. It was a successful and relatively easy swarm capture. I gave the homeowners, Danny and Abey, a small jar of honey and thanked them for helping me (and the bees!). I kept the bees in the box in my basement for two days until I had clearance to set them up at my newest apiary (story to come soon)...