Thursday, May 25, 2017


The Bee Infromed Partnership has issued a preliminary report on winter losses for the 2016-2017 time frame.  Overall losses were down.  However, this preliminary data does not offer any guidance for the reason or reasons for the improvement; ie the milder winter, infromed varroa management, etc.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


This time of year beekeepers are intently pursuing a number of different objectives.  Are my clonies queenright?  Are there swarm cells?  Pursuing swarms in the trees.  Getting honey supers installed.  But most of us forget one of the most important tasks.  Controlling varroa.  Winter survivor hives are raising brood; both worker and drone brood, at a furious rate.  This activity allows varroa to also re-produce.  As a minimum you should start monitoring varroa levels.  Some beekeepers treat varroa in the spring.  If your honey supers are already installed you should only use formic acid or oxalic acid treatments.  If your supers are not yet installed you can use other chemical treatments, but must wait at least 3 weeks prior to installing your honey supers.  Otherwise your honey will get contaminated with these chemicals.

Follow this link for more information.

SWARM SAGA FINALE submitted by beekeeper Gerard

The swarm (Swarm Saga I and II) that was 30 – 40 feet up in a tree decided to take up residence in the bait box (swarm lure) on Monday, 5/22.  I spotted it in the tree on Wednesday evening, 5/17.   That night it endured torrential rain and strong winds, and for the next 4 days it was exposed to rain, wind, overcast sky, and temps not above the mid-50’s.  It appeared to not move a wing.

Monday, after work, I checked and saw bees orientating in front of the bait box and I went back to check the tree.  The swarm was gone.  To verify that they were in the bait box I put my ear against the box to listen.  Yep, lots of bees in there.  I took the dogs for a walk back to the apiary, checking the treetops for any more swarms and didn’t see anything.   So I cut grass since it wasn’t raining at the moment.

I didn’t know which hive had cast the swarm but two hives in particular had been heavily bearding.  (I had put additional supers of foundation on to see if they would change their mind.)  So I got the dogs and went back to see if either of them had discontinued bearding and if my method worked.  No bearding on either hive so I figured it worked for one and that it was the other that had swarmed.   Reasonable, I thought.  As I turned to leave I saw this:

It was 7:15 p.m. and the light was fading.  I hurried the dogs back to the house, grabbed the parts for the second bait box (which is a single deep 8-frame hive), grabbed my jacket and boots, grabbed an empty cardboard box from the burn pile, and my bee brush.  I quickly set up the hive on a couple of concrete blocks I had back there, noticing that the grass in the apiary needed to be cut…..again.

I brushed the swarm down into the box, and they peeled off almost as one.  I took extra care at the center of the swarm, figuring that’s where the queen would be.  They were very docile with not many bees flying around.  I captured around 80% – 85% of the swarm and unceremoniously dumped them into the hive and closed it up.  I watched for awhile and dozens of bees were scenting at the entrance to attract those in the air and those left behind.   Bees that had dropped onto the ground were marching into the hive and I was pretty sure the queen was inside.  All good.

But, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  On my way out I saw that a softball sized group of bees had regrouped where the swarm had been.  I knew that they would eventually find the hive, but rain was in the forecast (of course) so I thought I’d help them out.  They were not pleased.  As soon as I started brushing them into the box they attacked.  I trust my protective gear, but hadn’t bothered with the bee britches, just blue jeans. 

Moving quickly, I brushed as many bees as I could into the box and took them to the hive.  I opened the hive and was met with angry bees boiling out.   Such a contrast to a few minutes ago.  I hurriedly dumped the bees, closed the hive, and walked quickly out followed by several bees that needed to let me know that I needn’t come back.  Gratefully I sustained only three venom injections.  Two through my blue jeans and one through a goatskin glove.  I feel healthier already.

I went back this morning to see how it all looked.  There was a low hum in the hive, a cluster of bees in the box, and a golf ball sized cluster of bees on the tree.   All’s well.

Any future swarms from this apiary (this season) will be gifts to the world.  I’ve taken enough…..for now.  I still have bait boxes in other locations and will continue to monitor and refresh those, but I want the genetics from this apiary to spread.  The virgin queens need good mates.


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Saturday, May 20, 2017


Hopefully the pictures will show up this time!

Wednesday, May 17, was a glorious day.  I could see the sun, and the flags across the road moving moderately in the breeze, through my office window.  My phone showed the temperature near 70.  A good day to split colonies if I hadn't had to work a day job to support my habit.

I took the dogs for a walk back to the apiary when I got home from work, checking the flora and looking for swarms.  The honeysuckle was in blossom and the bees were working it.  When I say honeysuckle, I mean A LOT of honeysuckle.   There’s miles of patches in this area that are 100 yards long and 10 yards wide.  It’s a major source of early honey for me.

There’s 3 honey bees easily seen in this photo, and they were that thick everywhere.

As we neared the apiary I spotted an extraordinarily dark thickness on an upper branch of a young Box Elder tree which is a swarm wrapped around a vertical branch.

The swarm is 30 – 40 feet above the ground.  Clustered vertically and wrapped around a branch, I couldn’t think of any way to capture them except for a chainsaw, or a bait box.  I had two bait boxes in the shop and wished I had had one out. 

I put the dogs in the house and set up the bait boxes (plural, another mistake).  The bees found both within seconds and soon there were dozens of scouts checking both out.  I knew from having read Tom Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy that the scouts were returning to the swarm and dancing their opinions for the others to go and check them out.  The number of scouts around the bait boxes grew, but remained equal, with dozens coming and going at each.  I realized they probably wouldn’t reach a consensus because the boxes were equal in volume (8 frame deeps), and nearly equal inside with an old brood comb and frames.  (#1 had several empty frames and #2 had several frames with foundation.)

I stood in the tall grass with the wood ticks for 2 ½ hours waiting to record the cluster bursting forth and flying en masse to the bait box of their choice.  Then it got dark.  Having realized my mistake, I removed bait box #2 to tip the votes to bait box #1.  Then it stormed.  Drenching rains and winds strong enough to topple an ancient box elder on my front lawn (missed the house by 10 feet).   Thursday morning the swarm was intact in the tree.

I checked the bait box locations when I took the dogs for a walk at 6:15 a.m. and there were about a dozen scouts at each location.  20 minutes later they had abandoned the location where bait box #2 had been and the number increased at bait box #1.  The daytime temperature didn’t get above the mid-50’s and the cluster didn’t stir.  Friday morning the swarm was still in the tree and there were a couple of scouts checking bait box #1.  I was getting concerned because I didn’t know how long the honey in the swarm bees' honey stomachs would last.  Still don’t.

I shared with Jack and Fred the status of the swarm, and Jack suggested adding a frame of honey to the bait box to sweeten the pot.  I took a frame loaded with honey over to the bait box when I got home from work (about 4 p.m.) and immediately a scout landed on it.  I tried to be careful so I could get the bee in the bait box too, but the motion was enough to cause the bee to fly off.

I scratched the cappings to get the honey flowing down the comb and closed the bait box.  In the short time it took to secure everything 3 scouts showed up and went in.  I think they started shuttling honey to the swarm.

It’s now Saturday morning.  The swarm is in the tree, the bait box has little activity (they know where it is), and I think they’re waiting for warm weather to finally take off for their new home, whether it be the bait box or not.  I’m hoping the bait box wins the election and that the weather forecasters are wrong.

UPDATE: On day 5 after several storms the swarm came out of the tree and occupied Gerard's bait hive.  Then the next day Gerard had the good fortune of capturing a 2nd swarm.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

BAIT HIVES-HOW WE DOING SO FAR submitted by Grandpa Jack

Hopefully everyone is doing better than I have so far.  Interesting year with the cold weather and wind almost every day. 

A week ago the bait hives had some scout bees looking the situation over and as the day went on, the number of scout bees increased.  Late in the afternoon, they were still looking the bait hive over and at one point, I actually wondered if a swarm had moved in.

Evening came and of course the scouts went back to their swarm and I was quite confident that the next day, I would have success to report to the group.  Morning arrived, no scouts, noon arrived, no scouts and as the afternoon became evening, I knew that I would not be able to report success.  So, what happened ?

The scout bees had actually found a home that they were interested in. My bait box!  Did they get overruled by the greater majority of scouts coming back to the swarm ?  That is definitely a possibility.  But with as much interest that they showed (more that 100 bees going in and out and all around) I think what probably happened to my new catch, was the beekeeper found them first.  We all hope that if our bees swarm that we have first chance at them.  That's the game we play and agree to.  If they leave the apiary, they are fair game.

So disappointed and rejected I will once again reset, re-bait and continue to hold out hope that the weather improves, only my neighbors bees will swarm, and that he/she is not as observant next time.

In the baiting game, one man's loss is another man's gain.  Happy hunting !