Tuesday, April 25, 2017

First Swarm Progress and Second Swarm Installation

What I forgot to mention in the previous post was that I did check my brood chamber on Saturday April 18th and saw really nicely drawn comb full of brood, both capped and uncapped. If you look at the uncapped cells in the picture, you can see larvae curled up. There were no drone cells. All a good sign that there is a mated queen and she is busily building up the population.

I checked the top chamber on Sunday April 23rd when it was closer to 70 degrees. They made great progress drawing comb and were filling it with nectar. I added some frames between the drawn comb. I noticed some cross comb on one of the follower boards and thought maybe I should remove it, but decided to deal with it next time. In the meantime, I added an empty frame between the follower board and the partially drawn frame of comb.

In between these inspections I have been checking the monitoring tray and seeing wax flakes, pollen, a dead earwig, a few live ants, etc. Nothing alarming. I recently found a dead pupa on the doormat in front of the hive, along with a few dead bees. I have been told to expect some of the older bees to die off. According to my bee math calculations, I should start seeing bees emerging from their cells on April 26th or 27th. The weather is warming up, so maybe I will be able to check soon.

Up until this point I have only had one hive populated, but I do have two hives. The first one is on the right hand side of the stand, so I call it Number 2. This is the hive I have described so far, which started with a swarm I was given on April 4th.

Now I have a new hive to talk about, the second one called Number One. On Sunday April 23rd I got another call about a swarm. It was at the home of someone named Rebecca who is another beekeeper who lives nearby. She is actually the person who got the last swarm that I got to help with. Morgan was the swarm catcher who went to box up this other swarm from her yard. They are all saying it looks like her established hive swarmed for the second or third time and this is probably from that hive. What this means is that I likely have a virgin queen, which means I will need to be patient and the bees will have a little more time to build up comb and food stores before the queen starts laying.

On Monday April 24th, I transferred the swarm from the nuc box to Hive Number One. It was cold and rainy so I had to wait for the rain to let up. Then I did it as quickly as I could. I have been wearing a bee suit that covers the top half of my body. I now know I should tuck my pants into my socks. A wayward bee wandered up my pants and when I tried to shake it out, it stung me. I quickly applied some smoke to the sting to mask the sting pheromone. Fortunately, the transfer was already done and the hive was closed so I headed into the house to do some quick first aid. This was my first sting after handling bees or being around open beehives about 8 times. It looks like I am not allergic. The site of the sting got swollen and was somewhat painful for the rest of the day. The next day, it is still swollen but doesn't hurt or itch.

Anyhow, the bees have been doing their orientation dance in front of the hive for two days. You can really see the difference between the older hive and the new one. The older one is busy going in and out and not doing as much frantic looking dancing.

On Monday, the 25th, I got a call from Frank that his swarm trap had finally caught a swarm. This is the third swarm in Frank and Judy's yard this year, but the first one to move into the trap. I came over the next day and another beekeeper named Kelly transferred the bees to a nuc box, putting the nuc box where the swarm trap had been. The bees all moved into the nuc box and they are destined for Penngrove. Kelly also took a look at Frank and Judy's hives, added some empty frames and and demonstrated removing cross comb from the follower board. A very educational day.

I am really grateful that our bee association is so well organized and we have bee sharing and bee buddies. It makes you learn faster and not feel lost when there is so much to know.

I have been taking video of my hive inspections and swarm activities. I would like to edit things down before posting them. Stay tuned (maybe much later).

In the mean time, our front yard is covered in flowers like borage, california poppy, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and some other blooms I can't identify. The bees are on everything. They especially love borage. I planted some salvias in a block in the front today for future forage.

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