In my previous post, I had related the story about how I had received a truck load of beekeeping equipment and that I was hoping my “Mother Hive” would swarm. Today as I was suiting up to do a few things with the new hives, I heard a really loud buzzing and my attention was drawn to one side of the garage. When I looked, I noticed a huge “tornado” of bees – I knew instantly that my large hive had swarmed. The only thing now was to wait to see if they went into one of the boxes they had been investigating over the past few days. And sure enough, they did. They went right in, they went directly from the main hive to one of the new ones I had set up only days before.
I should have grabbed the tri-pod when I went in to grab the camera, but hindsight is 20/20. Please forgive the shakiness, I was in a rush to capture this incredible “force” of nature. If you’ve never stood in the middle of a swarm of bees, it is an incredible rush. Thousands of bees flying, buzzing,
The whole process took a while as the swarm was actually very large, but they went in and got settled. Such a neat experience and I am grateful to have been outside and able to observe the swarm when it occurred.
Earlier this spring I went into what I am calling the “Mother Hive”. Lots of queen cells so I figured she was going to swarm. Actually, I was hoping she would as I really did not want to do a split. The 20 thousand dollar question was whether or not I would be able to catch it if it did swarm.
Thanks to Rick F. for a bounty of equipment.
This spring (May specifically) Maryland has had rain. Rain, endless rain, day after day rain; and it prevented me from getting down to Southern Maryland to pick up some used bee equipment from my friend. I had used up all of my supplies on the three new packages, and the swarm I caught at a neighbor’s place earlier in the month. Long story short, I was able to pick up a truck load of equipment to inject new life into my dwindling equipment supply. It took days to unload and sort through all of the stuff. Boxes and boxes of drawn comb, inner and outer covers, bottom boards, and even some in hive feeders. My friend is going from a 10-frame box to an 8-frame set up. None of this stuff was going to work for him anymore. My gain completely!
So after everything was sorted and cleaned, I had enough drawn comb to set up 4 separate hives as possible options just in case that Mother Hive decided to swarm. Since the bees were investigating the equipment while it was in the truck, I was hopeful that once I had set everything up, they would continue to be curious. It didn’t take long before I noticed they were definitely checking out all of the boxes, but two specifically – the top left, and the bottom right. All I could do was wait and see what would happen. And four days later in happened…click the bee for the rest of the story.
Last year I made the decision to expand my apiary. I started looking at places to purchase several packages of honey bees and I opted to make my purchase from Wolf Creek Bees. This decision was based upon price, and the genetic description of their bees . My long-time friend and beekeeper mentor, Rick F., and I call them “mutt bees”, but we have found that the “mutts” seem to fair better in our respective environments. His being Southern Maryland, and mine being northern Baltimore county.
Anyway, back to the bees…
I reached out to Wolf Creek and inquired about their 2016 ordering schedule. They very quickly responded that I should touch base with them in January. I logged a date in my planner and anxiously waited for January. And like clockwork, I placed my order and it was confirmed – a shipment date of April 20th. The ordering process was easy, the customer service was attentive, and now all I had to do was wait until April when I would receive the email containing the actual shipping information.
To make ready for the bees, I cleared a section in the garden, purchased three condenser pads (thanks to a suggestion from my dear husband) from an online HVAC supplier and had some 4 x 6 treated posts cut into 24 inch lengths. The condenser pads are 30 x 30 x 2 and they are ideal for using as a base for the hives. I will be switching all of my hives over to this system. The 4 x 6 posts provide a sturdy elevation, but will not be too high for me to remove a fourth deep (super) at some point. I only run deeps on my hives – even for honey storage and I don’t want them too high for me to pull a full super during harvest season.
Note: if you are expecting packages of bees, kindly notify your local postmaster. They appreciate the “heads up”, and some are even excited to talk about your hobby.
So the packages arrived on a rainy Saturday morning. With the rain I would not be able to install them in the hive so they were stored in the jeep, in the garage for the night. I painted the screen of the shipping packages with 1:1 sugar syrup and left them to settle after their long journey from Tennessee.
After things began to warm up the next morning, I began to get things ready for installation. There are several videos on Youtube that will give you step by step instructions on how to install a package of bees.
Find one that works for you. One note, I did not spray down my bees. It was a little chilly and rather breezy on the day I needed to do the installation. Use your best judgement, you definitely don’t want wet, cold, bees especially if the weather is not ideal. Also, I waited a full two weeks before going back into the hives to remove the queen cages.
Freeing of the queen a success in all three packages!
All in all, a very interesting experience. It has furthered my knowledge and skills related to beekeeping. It did force me out of my comfort zone a bit since I had never done an install before. Great mentoring from my friend Rick kept me on track and gave me the confidence to venture into the arena of buying bee packages.
How was your first time buying and installing a package of bees?
This summer has had it’s ups and downs. I’ve been so busy volunteering for All Shepherd Rescue that I have neglected so many things on the farm. The upside to that is the numerous foster dogs we have had this year have all been adopted. The downside is the garden was raided early on by deer, the weeds took over, and I just decided to “give up”. Much to my surprise the other day, I have some viable volunteer tomato plants, some basil, some rosemary, and some cilantro to harvest. Thankful for some fresh produce this year even if I did nothing to deserve it. I haven’t even done much with the bees other than observe their comings and goings. The number of canine lives that have been saved due to ASR’s rescue efforts makes it all worth it.
I’ve been meaning for weeks to get out to check the hive, it was either too hot to suit up (I actually have a honey bee allergy so I wear a ventilated full suit), too windy, or raining. On the days that were good days to get into the hive, I always had other things to do. Well, today was going to be the last low humidity day for the next week or so which translated to my last chance for a while to get in and see what was going on.
Fully loaded – front and back.
So I suited up, fired up the smoker, and headed out for the hive. (The feature photo is from last year when I had just brought home two swarms that a fellow Keep had caught.) 2015’s colony is a four-deep – also a Southern Maryland swarm – having lost the two new swarms to who knows what. Lots of propolis sealed the inner cover which once removed, a beautiful sight appeared. A hive teaming with bees, and two deeps full of honey – well over 200 pounds, not counting what might be in the two lower deeps. Doing a quick survey of the third deep, I observed a good 100 pounds and decided that taking eight frames from the fourth deep would still leave them plenty of food this winter.
80# fresh, local honey.
I had been keeping four frames containing partially filled honey comb in my freezer since last fall, so I thawed and added them to the hive. The bees will clean them up and after I harvest this year’s honey, I will put four of the empty frames back into the hive for the fall flow. The empty drawn comb will be stored in the freezer to prevent wax-moths and be used when I add colonies in the spring. I’ve already been in touch with a couple reputable bee suppliers and fully expect to have to purchase packages of bees next year in order to expand the apiary. I would love to have a minimum of four colonies on a consistent basis.
Stay tuned for a follow up post detailing the extracting process and the total yield from today’s harvest.