Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Swarm Season Continues

I got a call from Rob on a Monday afternoon about a swarm that had landed in his tree earlier that day. After confirming that it was honey bees and that they were still there, I headed out to grab them. Rob and his family were eager onlookers and helpers (thanks for the camera work Cameron!). A few pics of the swarm in the tree...

It was a relatively easy capture and went perfectly. My usual swarm-catching helper Jonah was with me but he got distracted by his new friend Nate, a big backyard and a cool swing set! Here's a video.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rooftop Revival

At the end of last summer we had some work done our roof and I had to move the one remaining rooftop hive elsewhere. I really missed being able to look out of the window every day and watch the bees. But, we are back in business on the roof. It has become my nuc yard where, at the moment, I have 4 nucs growing up. If you have seen old pictures of the roof, you'll notice that we used to have it white-coated. For now it is black, which makes it REALLY hot up there on a sunny day. I'll have it white coated again, but probably not until next year.

Two of the nucs were made from some of my multi-year survivor stock. I let the queens mate locally and they are both laying well. The other two nucs were made with queen cells from Jeff Eckel of Instar Apiaries. Jeff has been raising queens in Philly for the past few years. I got two queen cells from him and installed them in queenless nucs that I had prepared. These queen cells were special - they were from a "Purdue ankle-biter" breeder queen.  These bees have been bred with a special hygienic behavior, they bite the legs of varroa mites off, which kills the mites (click the Purdue link to see pictures of the mites with their itty bitty legs bitten off). Both queens mated despite our wet and cool May and they are both laying strong. Here are a couple of different views of the nuc yard, including into Center City.


Comcast Center and Tower in the distance

Climbing out of the window to get to my rooftop hives is a bit of a pain (actually more of a pain every year!), but having these mini hives out there is relatively manageable because at least I didn't have to haul full size boxes out of the window. I plan on moving these to my other yards when it is time to put them in full size hives (well, maybe I will keep one out there for my viewing pleasure!).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Swarmus Interruptus

Well, sometimes you get to a swarm removal only to find the bees have already left. And sometimes you get to a swarm and you watch the bees leave! I got a phone call earlier today about a swarm in Center City and after confirming that the bees were still there, I headed over. When I arrived there they were, clinging to a wall. I saw a fair amount of activity but nothing crazy, I figured it was scout bees coming and going. Within about 3 minutes of arriving, it became abundantly clear that it was more than just ordinary scout bee traffic - they were taking off. Here is what it looked like (sorry the Blogspot video quality is so bad, some day I'll transfer to Wordpress!) -

It's always great to see a swarm in flight, but not as great as catching one! Oh well, easy come, easy go! Jonah enjoyed watching it! We watched the bees as they settled in the tall cypress(?) tree. I guess they didn't like their spot on the wall.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Swarm 2016...and away we go for another season!

Hi all, hope you had a great winter! We had a mild one in Philadelphia. I went into winter with 7 hives and 5 of them survived. Now they are all building up as the weather has really warmed up in the past week and there are tons of flowers in bloom.

The other day there was a post on the Philly Bee Keepers Facebook page about a swarm in Northeast Philly. I jumped at the chance to grab it. The car was packed with swarm catchin' gear and I headed up to my old stomping grounds to go capture the swarm. But, I broke one of the cardinal rules of swarm catching - I didn't get last minute confirmation that the swarm was still there (I tried but couldn't get a hold of anyone). Lo and behold, got there and the bees had left already! Damn - no free bees today! Fortunately, I got a call from the same guy the next day and there was another swarm in the same exact place! I had told him they might throw a secondary swarm and if they did to call me. The parent colony is living in the building not 25 feet from where the swarms landed.

So I headed out again, this time with my trusty assistant Jonah and we captured that swarm! And we even saw the queen. Here are some pics and video.

A lovely little swarm!

My assistant saying hi to the girls!

In this video you can see when I found the queen. After removing a small branch, there she was - right in front of my face. I managed to get her on my pruners.

What was that I said about queens being unlikely to fly away???

Fortunately she didn't get away. She went back into the swarm to the safety of her daughters! It is nice to be able to contain the queen, because that really ensures that the swarm won't go anywhere once you set them up in a new hive. Sometimes a swarm will leave a new hive once it is set up and opened. I have had that happen only once. If you keep the queen contained for a day or two while the bees get settled in, it greatly improves the chances that they will stay.

Jonah being very brave

We got all of the bees into the box and sealed them up. All in all it was a very easy swarm capture and the bees were super gentle. It was great to have Jonah there helping, he was into it. According to the guy who called me, the bees have been living there at least 4 years, so it seems like they will be good genetic stock. We'll see how they do!

Girls are all sealed up ready to go home

Update - Here they are settling in to their new home at Woodford Mansion...

And one final update - I checked on them one week after installing them at Woodford. Saw the queen and she is laying eggs nicely. So far so, good...