Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swarm Highway

Clearly the intersection of Moorpark Rd and L.A. Avenue is a popular rest stop for Moorpark swarms. Got a call yesterday from Charlie at the Fire Dept out there (same guy who called me on the swarm down below, the one draped around the small tree) with a swarm about 12 feet high in a shopping center immediately across the street from the previous one.

I didn't take any pix, but Charlie did so hopefully we'll have some. The short story is, they provided me with a 10-ft ladder, I used my limb saw to get rid of a few obstructive branches, and then I put a box under the swarm and shook them in.

Naturally I lost a lot of bees as I climbed down the ladder, before I could tape the box closed. So, I closed one up, waited a few minutes, and went up with another box and captured the sizeable glob of bees that had re-congregated in the same spot.

All in all a good capture, probably 4 lbs of bees or so. I hived them in a single 10-frame deep in my "remote" yard; a neighboring ranch. While I was there I checked in on the newly hived swarm from the chair (see below) which was just around the corner from this swarm's location (near the middle school, at the top of the map). They're hanging in, and appear to be doing well.

It's getting to where I'm getting at least one bee call a day. It's 50-50 between swarms and people calling because a swarm has already set up shop inside their walls, or hollow gazebo roof, or under the Spanish tile shingles... and I don't touch those. Just not worth it, no matter what I'd be able to charge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Swarm Could've Used Mapquest

So, you're a fresh swarm of bees newly thrown off a crowded hive, and you're out trying to find a nice location to rest while your scouts seek out a new home. You pass parks with nice tall trees, you pass houses and barns with inviting eaves, and instead... your fearless leader (whomever that might be) decides that this is the perfect place to hang out...

Easy enough swarm to catch. I just held the chair over an open cardboard box, did a quick downward snap, and they all fell into the box. Tape up the box, head home, dump them in a hive body (with bottom board, inner and outer cover, and done.

I put them in one of my remote yards, at a nearby ranch. I'll check in a week to see if they decided to stay or if they took off, which sometimes happens with newly hived swarms.

Thanks to Patty in Moorpark for the call, and for her desire to keep the bees alive after they decided to use her patio furniture for a temporary home.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Swarms and Supers

A very bee-zy day today, starting early by taking a look at a swarm that I was called on the night before in Moorpark. the Fire Dept said a swarm was hanging out next to a Walgreen's, and they taped the area off. I decided to swing by early in the morning to see if I could get them before my day got started, but the sun had already hit them and they were too active... not to mention, there was no way to get them into a box, as you can see:

They were literally wrapped around the trunk of this immature little tree, so I wouldn't be able to sweep them all at once or shake them into a box.

I figured I could come back in the late afternoon and vacuum them. In the meantime, I spent the morning supering 8 out of my 10 hives, because the sage flow has started, the hollyleaf cherry is starting to bloom, and the hive populations are VERY high.

In fact, they're so highly populated that one of them swarmed right before my eyes, and headed into an inextricable location high in a scrub oak on a slope. To make it even more challenging, they mimicked the Moorpark swarm, clinging to a thick bough instead of hanging cooperatively where I could shake them into a box.

Interestingly, this swarm didn't stick around for more than a few hours. I checked later in the day as I was brush clearing, and they were already gone. I put a phone call in to the Walgreen's, and that swarm had taken off as well. So... no free bees today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Splits and Supers

Back in February I decided to do some early splits of three very strong hives. The results: 1 hive perished almost immediately, while three survived the unusual spate of cold snaps we suffered and, as of April 10 when I checked, seem to be going strong.

All of these splits were "walk-away" splits; meaning I went through the strong hives, picked out at least three frames of brood (all ages, most importantly some eggs or larva less than 3 days old), another three or four frames of food, the remainder in foundation frames, loaded them all into a new deep, and shook a mess of nurse bees in. It appears I got lucky and the surviving hives each raised a queen by feeding royal jelly to the eggs all the way through the larval stage (instead of stopping after three days, as they would with worker brood). And my luck held, it seems, as each of the queens successfully completed a mating flight and returned to the hive to start laying eggs.

The sage just started to bloom this past weekend, so this Friday I'm going to super all the hives for honey flow. Woo hooo!

I'm also starting to get swarm calls, although the bulk have been out of my area so far. I'm sure I will soon be collecting some swarms and adding to my second beeyard, one I established (which now only has two hives) at a neighboring ranch.

Finally, I had to remove both of the hives I had in the Community Garden. When I split one of the hives the original bees became very ornery and defensive, and caused a lot of problems for the gardeners. I moved them, but was prevented by bad weather and other issues from moving the second hive for a few weeks. Evidently one of the gardeners ran a roto-tiller near the hive for an extended period, and they eventually got fed up and came after him. So, I went out last Saturday night and moved that hive back to my home yard as well. Both of these hives seem to have adjusted well, and the bigger garden hive (the one I split) has a tremendous supply of garden honey going into the flow, so they've got a great head start.

With all the rain, I'm hoping for a really strong flow this spring and lots of production from all the hives.