On a clear day you can see your bees swarm

Today our kind neighbor stopped mowing his lawn and trotted over to point out our latest swarm. Our thoughtful bees had once again chosen the close-to-the-ground branch to collect upon. We shook the swarm into our trusty cardboard box and caught it.

We also inspected our weakest hive. I’m posting to the West Sound Beekeepers list and am putting up some photos here for the very kind folks there to look at and help us decipher.

In the photo below you can see the signs of a laying worker – two eggs per cell, eggs on the side of the cell, and capped drone brood.

Signs of a laying worker

Signs of a laying worker

Beekeeping class at Mother Earth News Fair

Mother Earth News Fair

Mother Earth News Fair

Ted and I got to go to the Mother Earth News Fair today, first one in Washignton state! James Zitting gave a talk on “Sustainable and Natural Beekeeping”. We were excited to hear from an experienced natural beekeeper and relieved to find that we are doing what more or less what natural beekeepers recommend. Zitting monitors naturalized colonies living in trees near his home. He thinks that beekeepers are making hives that are a little too thin-walled, he makes his hives from 2? thick lumber to approximate the thickness of a tree trunk, and he says that with a hive that thick the bees can take care of ventilation and temperature, a big worry to us as we think about winter.

Links:
Mother Earth News Fair
Bee Landing (James Zitting)

Nuc box to Kenyan top bar move

Swarm in brush

Swarm in brush

Exciting times in the apiary Sunday. Ted finished the new hive so we moved the swarm from the cardboard box to their permanent home. They had built so much comb in just a few days! There were two combs on one bar. We had to cut some comb to fit it into the slant-sided hive. This was the maddest we’ve ever made a colony, bees were all over my suit, and one got into my veil, although it didn’t sting me. Ted got stung twice before he put on his veil and gloves. This is the most stressed I’ve been so far as a beekeeper.

We’ve decided to name the hive boxes and just keep track of the history of the colonies in each box, to simplify our record keeping. The leftover colony from the first swarm is our problem child – the old bees there are dying off, we haven’t seen a new queen (they’re hard to spot) so we aren’t sure we have one, and we’ve seen larvae but we don’t know if they are worker larvae. Our plan is to check at the end of next week to try to figure out if that colony is still a queen-right colony.

Both colonies from the second swarm are doing so well I wonder if we’re going to get a secondary swarm out of one of them. If we do we’ll combine it with our problem hive. Meanwhile I told Ted he should think about making another box! June is swarm season.