Oxford Bees

Swarms

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.

Swarms, Casts and Virgin Queens

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.

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.

Hiving the bees: Settling in; preventing AFB; minor mistakes

Submitted by will on Thu, 26/05/2016 - 15:51

The NBU Regional Bee Inspector advises not to leave any comb in the hive when hiving new swarms because of the local AFB outbreak. Two days ago I put the bees into the hive but I had to remove several frames. Today I opened the hive and put clean, comb-free frames back in.

The colony are settling in. They've been building comb, but in the wrong place. The hive is a Commercial body with a super on top. They were such a large swarm (football sized) that I put them in through the super. Unsurprisingly I found them today clinging in a ball to the crown board. They were building comb directly onto the crown board and into the space where the super frames should go.

I put the made up frames into place and very gently put the crown board back down. A piece of comb with fresh honey broke off.

I now have a hive full of frames but also a new problem: tons of space in the brood area but a Queen who'll be building in the super.

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.