Oxford Bees

Swarms

Possible swarm left from Colony 4 at the end of June

Submitted by will on Fri, 13/07/2018 - 09:51

I was away from Oxford for the last week of June. It seems that there was a swarm on the tree in front of my out apiary on 28th June. I suspect that this was from Colony 4.

I have no real evidence that this swarm was from any of my hives. There seems to be less going on in Colony 4 -- less pollen on the hive floor for example -- but I can't be sure.

Submitted by will on Thu, 31/05/2018 - 06:14

The evidence on the floor of Hive E pointed to an occupation. That is exactly what has happened. At some point in the last few days a swarm has occupied Hive E. Welcome to Colony 12.

The signs that this was not a robbery included detritus which looked too dark to be from capped honey. That was a sign. The most striking thing though was the Wax Moth larvae. An infestation of Wax Moth must have been under way because there were 3 or 4 larvae on both times I looked.

I don't know the origin of Colony 12. I haven't seen evidence that it has come from one of my hives. If it had then Colony 04 in Hive D would be most likely. I don't see evidence that has happened, although there was less dropped pollen than on the floor of Hive G.

Colony 12 seems to be a decent size. It has arranged itself vertically through the hive, which has a Commercial brood body and a super on it.

I took the lid off to check that they really were occupying but I didn't lift out any frames. Their temperament seems fine. They didn't attack, even though I didn't use smoke.

I put a feeder on the hive with some of last years honey in it. I was concerned afterwards that this may be improper haste -- the settling swarm probably won't have exhausted the honey in their stomachs so there may be a greater risk of bringing a disease like AFB. On balance I don't think that I've done anything silly. The swarm wouldn't have needed to build comb so I'd already missed that opportunity to empty their stomachs. There have been few sunny days lately and lots of rain. The last of the spring tree blossom has gone so feeding looks like a good way to encourage brood rearing. I'll inspect in mid-June to see whether there are any disease signs.

Colony 10 has absconded

Submitted by will on Thu, 10/05/2018 - 06:57

It would appear that the hive which I put Colony 10 into didn't suit them. I checked this morning and they've left.

This isn't a big surprise. Swarms can be actively looking for sites even after they're put into hives. I did open the hive the day after I put them in and saw them mostly stuck to the hive wall. That suggested that they hadn't accepted the hive. I don't know why they didn't like it.

This morning there were 3 or 4 groggy and cold bees still there but it was otherwise empty. I think they may be scouts which were still out when the swarm left.

Submitted by will on Thu, 25/05/2017 - 07:36

Our bee group was alerted to a swarm in Golden Cross square right in the heart of Oxford yesterday. The swarm had mustered under an umbrella at eye level. We scrambled to find somebody to collect but someone from outside our group attended before we could get organised.

Where there are swarms there should be colonies nearby. To have a swarm within metres of Carfax Tower (the 'centre' of Oxford) suggests roof-top hives since the nearest garden is a few hundred metres away (Jesus College; Christ Church College; Lincoln College; St Peter's College). It is possible that there are ground level hives but it would be harder to place them where they wouldn't be a nuisance to people.

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Submitted by will on Sat, 20/05/2017 - 11:48
New caught swarm clustered in its' hive

I visited my out-apiary this morning to see how the new swarm was doing. I arrived early - about 6am - when the air was still chilly.

There was evidence of comb building on the floor of the hives: wax platelets which are dropped when wax is produced.

I took off the lid and found lots of bees in a strong cluster. I had left out two frames to make room for the swarm when I had hived it the day before. I eased one of these frames in but the bees were too tightly clustered to allow the last frame. I put on a queen excluder and a super and then the lid.

I looked at the other hives and also saw evidence of comb building, which suggests that there is a nectar flow in progress. This should help to establish the swarm as a viable colony.

Submitted by will on Fri, 19/05/2017 - 18:11

Today I caught the swarm which has been hanging next to my out apiary. It happened unexpectedly.

I had been worrying about whether the swarm would settle on the tree and then become a nuisance. The urge to build comb can be very strong so that the bees sometimes build in a place where they can't possibly survive. I saw this late last year when I attempted to recover an established colony which had exposed comb on an apple tree. They had been extensively robbed which must have aggravated the colony.

Today I asked about whether I could cut the tree which they were on. I also asked - because I felt I had to - whether they had a cherry-picker. The answer came back a few minutes later: "yes, our arborist will be there in 30 minutes".

I gathered my tools. This morning it had been: bee suit; box; sheet; gaffer tape; fishing line; spoon. This afternoon: box; sheet; secateurs; pruning saw; cherry-picker. Much better.

Up I went to the swarm, harnessed and suited. I tried not to look down. A wobble here; a wobble there and up to the swarm. A bit of light clipping and then a vigorous shake of the branch and most of the bees went into the box. I shut the lid and put the sheet over the box.

There were quite a few flying bees but very little aggression. The branch revealed that the swarm had not built comb. Possibly they would have moved on. I descended a little and brushed off the bees on my suit. A couple of minutes later I was on the ground with my veil off. The spectators, now entertained, dispersed.

Up I went to the apiary with the box. I opened the Hive G and gave the box a good bang. In went the bees, a few lumps at a time. Lid on; tidy up; get some lunch.

I'll look in on them tomorrow to see how they're doing.

Submitted by will on Wed, 17/05/2017 - 08:43

Yesterday I was called to my out-apiary because of a swarm. It had settled in a tree right in front of the building where my elevated hives are kept. The swarm was about 10m up the tree; the hives are at a height of about 20m. There was no way to reach the swarm.

I had a spare hive ready for this. I put it out immediately, ensuring that there was a bit of used comb inside to give it a more hive-like smell. All afternoon the swarm stayed on the tree. After nearly 6 hours I had to go home. This morning I'll find out whether they have moved on. Hopefully their scouts have found and liked the new hive.

Immediately after setting out the new hive I tried to see which of my hives the swarm had emerged from. I couldn't tell. The entrance traffic still seemed busy in each hive. I expect to see a large amount of capping wax on the removable floor after a swarm, dropped as they fill up on honey, but it seemed a normal amount.

I was cautious about opening the other hives. I supposed that alarm smells from neighbouring hives might put scouts off (although I've no evidence that it will). I had a look into Hive C but it seemed normal. I looked into Hive D and found that moving the excluder has trapped drones in the super box, and that the Queen appears to be in the lower box. I noted a Queen cell in the upper box, above the excluder. Hive F is still dropping Varroa, but I imagine that quite a few of the phoretic mites have infected the newly laid brood. More on that later.

Submitted by will on Tue, 02/08/2016 - 21:17

I was called today to collect a late swarm from Barton. The woman who called me says that it is the 5th swarm this season to leave a nearby feral colony.

The feral colony is living in an air brick in a house about 30m from the apple tree where the swarm was clustered. The swarm emerged on Friday. Today is Tuesday. She'd expected them to disperse but there they were.

Collection was simple. Shake them from a branch at head height into a nucleus box. Leave for 5-10 minutes. Thank everyone and remove.

Back home things are more complicated. I don't have a place for this hive. I'm wondering about AFB. They may swarmed too late to survive the winter - especially in a nucleus box. Plenty of room for error.

The likelihood of AFB seems low. They've been out of the hive for over 4 days so they should be very hungry by now. There were reports of AFB in the area in spring but not since. I'm hoping that things are ok.

The site should be ok. They're in a partially glazed and derelict greenhouse at the moment. It's sheltered, which is probably its only advantage. Shelter, feeding and insulation will all be necessary to help them through winter - assuming that I do help them.

Submitted by will on Tue, 14/06/2016 - 05:13

I received some useful comments from my bee group about swarms: the first swarm to emerge from a colony is the prime; subsequent swarms are casts. A cast swarm will have a virgin Queen so it will take longer to build up because the Queen has to mate.

My intervention of putting brood into Hive D - which appeared to have no downsides - was probably at least premature. It was pointed out that brood must be cared for. They need warmth and food. This takes bees away from foraging and other duties. This can be difficult for a small cast which is slowly building up. The introduced brood can partially die by chilling or starving.

I think that this cast was strong enough to cope with the shallow frame of brood which I introduced. Much of that brood was already capped, which should give them a quick boost. Be that as it may, there's a good chance that my move was unnecessary.

Submitted by will on Sun, 05/06/2016 - 12:57
Swarm of Honey Bees building comb on a Mahonia bush

I collected my third swarm yesterday. I was called in the late afternoon by John. The swarm was in his back garden in Headingon. They had settled on a Mahonia bush at about eye level.

This ought to have been a very easy collection. The difficulty was that I could see that they'd started making comb on the stem of the bush. There were obvious waggle dances on the outside of the cluster and behaviour which I was sure was foraging. If I took the swarm immediately the foragers would return and cause a nuisance to John. I agreed to return towards dusk when the foragers were in.

At 9pm I cut through the stem of the bush and put it, with bees, into a nucleus box with 3 empty frames. There were a few flying bees but these quickly settled into the nuc. Lid on; strap it up and off I go.

If the swarm had not been foraging things would have been easy: tip them into B Hive and let them settle in. Unfortunately John's house was in range of my Headington apiary so I took them down to my out-apiary.

Today I settled them into B hive in the out-apiary. The bees had mostly abandoned the Mahonia stem which we'd placed in the nuc. I moved the frames across and gently shook the bees in. I even saw the Queen, which was nice. She is unmarked.

I had a look in the other two hives. They were both fine - developing comb; storing pollen and honey. No sign of brood yet, as far as I can tell. It's noticeable that C Hive has made more comb than D.

I'm not being sufficiently careful about hygiene, given the current risk of AFB.  I open hives in sequence without disinfecting. Not good practice and I'll have to improve my process.