Oxford Bees

Swarm catching

Swarm in a tree but where did it come from?

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.

A bumpy start for Hive F

Submitted by will on Tue, 02/05/2017 - 14:47

I collected a new swarm today from Helen, another low intervention bee keeper who has a Top Bar Hive near the John Radcliffe Hospital. She had kindly caught them in a skep with a sheet under it. Collecting it was simple: tie up the sheet and carry it all away.

The colony from which it comes has been untreated for 2 years. Before that it was intensively managed by a keeper in Wolvercote.

I have placed it in my out-apiary in a new Commercial brood box: Hive F. I'm using frames without foundation, with only the lolly stick guides.

The arrival of the bees was easy; the arrival of the hive was not. I stacked all the hive parts together (roof; floor; crown board; brood box and 2 supers) and secured them with one hive strap. On arrival I hurried. I was afraid that the bees might overheat. The hive parts had been knocked askew so that that strap was slightly loose. Unsurprisingly the whole thing clattered to the floor. The damage was minimal: minor dings and dents and a slightly broken shallow frame. More haste gives less speed.

Dropping the hive was not the only unforced error. I meant to take a legless hive stand and some bricks to make a simple plinth. I forgot to take either. What will my bike feel like carrying 8 house bricks? I'm not sure that I want to find out.

Late swarm

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.

Third swarm

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.

Another new swarm to collect

Submitted by will on Fri, 27/05/2016 - 17:20

I was called a second time to Risinghurst by Judith who gave me my first swarm to collect. The same feral colony had cast a second swarm.

This new swarm was in the neighbour's hedge. Again it was at a low height and very easy to collect. This time I made no mistakes collecting it and then tipped it into the brood box of the hive.

From getting the call to being back at my desk took 2hrs 15mins. Not bad for a swarm catch.

I do have am empty super on top of this hive too. This time I also have a queen screen. I hope that the bees will build comb where the queen is. If not then I've made another mistake.

Catching and hiving swarm for my new apiary

Submitted by will on Wed, 25/05/2016 - 11:33
A honeybee swarm clings to the inside of a cardboard box before moving to the hive

I set up 2 hives a few weeks ago and registered with swarm officers. I've been waiting, but the weather has been relatively cold (air temp at 10am was greater than 15C only on 7th-10th and 12th May - source Radcliffe Observatory).

At about midday yesterday I was told about a swarm in Risinghurst. I took my swarm catching kit (bee suit; bee brush; cardboard box; gaffer tape) and found it in a very easy position. The swarm was on a hedge next to the pavement at chest level. I put the lip of the box beneath the swarm and gave a vigorous shake. In they went.

I was unsure about whether I'd got the queen so I shook and brushed the stragglers. I then propped the box with it's opening angled down to create a dark space. They coated the inside of the box (approx 50cm square). The flying bees continued to fly so I packed the box and drove to my out apiary.

At the out apiary I put the box with it's opening nearest the hive and hoped that they'd go in. I returned during the afternoon but they were still clinging to the inside of the box. I returned again as the sun was setting and they were still there.

The beekeeping books which I own are silent on to hive a swarm. Perhaps it's obvious? Time to get some advice. I called Paul.

Paul and I talked about walking them in with a sheet. It has downsides (the sheet falls off and they walk underneath; the sheet ruffles and they get trapped; etc). He recommended tipping the box in. It lacks style but does the job. I opened up, removed some frames to make space, then tipped with a sharp bang on the bottom of the box. It was done in a minute. Lid on and let them settle in.