Saturday, March 27, 2010

Placed the Swarm Hive in a Community Garden

A few months ago I got the idea of contacting some local community gardens and asking if they'd like me to place a hive or two on their grounds. After all, if anyone appreciates the hard work honeybees do, it's gardeners.

It took awhile to get the okay from the Thousand Oaks Park and Rec, but finally I got a call from the president of the Las Flores Community Garden, telling me that everyone was very enthusiastic about getting their very own "community garden beehive."

So, after work on Friday, right around dusk (so all the foragers would be back in the hive) I grabbed the nuc which had just functioned as a swarm trap, stuffed a little hardware cloth into the entrance to keep all the gals inside, grabbed a spare stand and headed over to the garden. I set up the hive in a low-traffic area, off to the side of a storage shed and within easy access of a nearby gate. Here we are on moving day:

Yes, I remembered to remove the hardware cloth before I left :-)

Tomorrow I'll stop by and see if they adjusted okay. I'll probably open the box and take a peek, just to get some idea of the population size, too.

I think this may be a great way to educate people about bees, and to help beehives gain acceptance into suburban areas--- many of which have rules that severely limit or curtail beekeeping.

And what a great environment for the bees! All kinds of blooming veggies, herbs, decor plants, even citrus... they should have a great time!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lose Some, Win Some

One of the hives I got last year from the almond orchards near Bakersfield (at exactly this time of year) is a "deadout." Very weird, because they were pretty robust until recently. At first I thought they might have swarmed, because I found a queen in the depleted hive two weeks ago... but now I think it was your basic CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. No dead bees to speak of--- just an empty hive, no brood, no honey (I suspect the honey stores probably were robbed by others in the beeyard), a smattering of pollen. A mystery.

And that split I did last week? (See below) Not looking good. A lot of the bees "drifted" back to their original hive, I think. Not many in the nuc when I checked yesterday, and no queen cells started. The frames I selected from the "host" hive must not have contained any eggs, or larva young enough to make into a queen. So, this split is probably short-lived...

On the other hand, I threw some old, black comb (comb eventually turns very, very dark after a few years of use) into a nuc, added a couple drops of lemongrass oil, and put the nuc up in a treehouse about 15 feet high or so. That's called a "swarm trap," and voila! One week later, I've got new residents! I'll move them out of the treehouse and into the beeyard next weekend.

I took the opportunity to set another swarm trap, just in case the locals are restless. I'll shoot a picture of them tomorrow AM and put it in this post.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Making a Split

We've had such a robust early bloom here that the hives are building up quickly. In the case of this hive, I felt the time was right to make a split; especially since another one of my hives is slowly but surely dying off.

In a split, you look for a combination of capped brood, open brood with eggs, and food. You also want plenty of "nurse bees;" the ones who are young enough that their job is to feed brood. They haven't flown out of the hive and foraged, so they have no point of reference--- meaning they can be moved and they'll stay with the new hive. Most of the foragers you unavoidably take with you on a split will go back to their original hive, unless your move is more than a couple miles away.

Anyway, here's a shot of the targeted hive, after having removed the two top supers. I found the queen in this medium hive body, and tons of capped brood. Once I removed it, I took four frames out of the Deep hive body (the bottom one). I hope I got enough eggs; I didn't actually see eggs, but I saw lots of very young, open brood, so I'm reasonably confident there are some eggs there too.

Here's the "nuc"--- short for "nucleus hive"--- loaded with four frames and plenty of bees. I stuck another foundation-filled frame in with them, closed them up, and moved them a few hundred yards away to my other beeyard.

The idea is that this nuc hive will grow a new queen, by feeding royal jelly to several of the eggs (or really young larvae). That queen, once she hatches, will take a mating flight, mate with several drones, and come back and start laying eggs. that entire process, if all goes right, will take about four weeks... so I'll let 'em be 'til this time in April.

Also checked on the hive that's been beleaguered by mites, and found the queen... but not much increase in numbers, if any. This hive may be doomed; but I'm gonna go ahead and hit 'em with Apiguard again. I'm not gonna harvest any honey from them, at least not early in the year, so it's safe to treat.

I'm also going to set a "swarm trap" tomorrow. More on that in a later post.