This last 2 weeks (March 30-April 9 2013) have been “swarm week”. I’ve received no less than 20 calls per day for swarm pickups in people yards, trees, houses, squirrel habitats, school yards, and more…
I even caught a swarm that was just innocently crossing the road while I was between calls!
Removal – Monday morning. These bees had taken up residence in a playhouse. The ceiling (roof) of the play house had been boarded over to protect the kids’ heads from any stray nails holding the shingles – but there were some pretty significant cracks – allowing the perfect space for a swarm of bees to take up residence, and call the place home. Once a swarm starts drawing comb and takes up residence in a cavity – it’s no longer a swarm – but a colony. These take MUCH more time to remove than a simple swarm.
After removing these bees – my next call was for a swarm pick up. This was a fairly easy and simple pick up, I took my last swarm-trap box that I had available to capture this one. The queen was an easy catch! The bees had swarmed from the tree in the background. The mother-hive is still very active at the base of the tree. The homeowners will be removing the tree later in the year – as it has died. I’ll be called back to remove the mother hive when the time is right.
My next call was for a swarm that had just moved into a yard that morning. Within 2 miles of the first swarm for the day. On my way to swarm #2 – I encountered ANOTHER swarm crossing the road. (Why did the bees cross the road?). I stopped, and applied a few drops of lemongrass oil to a frame in my hand-built Bee-Vac collection box. Sure enough – the bees smelled the LGO and collected. Once again – this queen was an easy find and catch.
Swarm #2 becomes Swarm #3… The last stop for the day was to pick up the bees from the squirrel habitat. I unscrewed the box from the cage, and stapled screen to cover the opening of the habitat box. Easy! Those ladies got to ride shotgun with me in the car!
Then – yesterday – the bees from the removal decided that they didn’t like the box that I had placed them in to. They swarmed in front of me while I was assembling more frames. It was a disheartening sight. Every last bee left the box in a mass-exodus. Luckily for me – they gathered within about 10 minutes in a nearby tree – and I was able to re-collect them and put them into another box – with a queen excluder under the box – so that the queen cannot leave the premises.
Next… Caldwell Elementary school had what was thought to be a swarm of bees in a tree at the exit to the school. I arrived in time to collect the bees before school dismissed for the day. This collection wound up turning into a removal – as it was revealed after removing some of the bees that they had already started drawing comb. The bees were still well-behaved, though – and are currently with the other swarm catches – in quarantine while their demeanor can be ascertained.
I’ll be building more boxes this evening – as I have 3-4 more removals and captures to complete.
As nighttime temperatures rise above 50 deg. F. for several days straight – the bees are able to start producing wax. This generally coincides with some of the nectar flow in plants starting – and a big buildup of brood in the hive.
I received a call yesterday a.m. about a swarm that had been in a tree at a local Jalapeno Tree restaurant (about 10-15 miles away). The swarm had been in the tree since the day before, and the regional manager was afraid of customers being stung – they had tried getting someone through a local beekeeping club – but no response… I was there within the hour – knowing full well that if he called me at 11:30am on a calm, sunny day – that they could very well disappear before I got there.
Sure enough – as I pulled into the parking lot – my daughter calls out “I see them!”. I’m looking for the ball in a tree – but then she says – “They’re flying!”. Sure enough – a tornado whirlwind of bees is rising from the tree.. and I’m not even out of my car, yet.
I sent Amber around to the other side of the building to see if they were visible – and she indicated that the swarm had moved to the top of the other side of the building. The restaurant manager gave me access to the roof-ladders on the back of the building – and I made the climb – up 3 ladder/roof levels with the swarm box. At the top – they were flying, still. As I set the box down onto an a/c unit – the bees were already landing on and entering the box. It was an amazing sight!
I don’t recall ever having such an EASY swarm catch. This was a BIG swarm. They completely filled the 5-frame nuc. and overflowed it at first – as they were getting their bearings.
I returned later in the day, and screened the entrance shut, and lowered the nuc with a rope to the ground – and moved them to a nearby out-yard – where I went ahead and moved them to a full 10-frame Langstroth.
For those curious as to what I have in my swarm trap… I used 3-frames of drawn old-comb, 2 empty (foundationless) frames, and 2-3 drops of lemongrass oil under the lid of the box.
Last year (around Feb-April 2012) my daughter noticed honeybees entering /exiting a bird habitat in a city park. She took a few pictures of the hive, and for the last year, we’ve been monitoring it’s progress and growth.
The hive grew large enough that they were building wax honeycomb on the exterior of the habitat box and for about 18 inches below the box.
I was curious to see who had placed the bird habitat box, and contacted several Boy Scout troops local to my area (Richardson, Texas) to see if they had placed the boxes. I was unable to track down the troop – so contacted the City Of Richardson maintenance department to see if they knew anything about the boxes.
The maintenance supervisor I spoke with was aware of the boxes, and indicated that generally, after a scout has achieved their eagle-Scout rank – then they pretty much abandon the habitats that have been placed. I explained the situation with the honeybees in the bird habitat, and the supervisor told me that they would be happy for me to remove the colony of honeybees.
Today was the day of their big move. I arrived at the park, and met with several city officials in regards to the bees – after a short conversation with them, they seemed happy with my plan of action – and went on their way. 30 minutes later, the bees were safely relocated to my Dallas area bee yard. My hopes are to video my removal of the colony and the re-homing of the bees to a standard langstroth bee-box. Hopefully, I can get that accomplished some time next week.
This month I attended a beekeeping conference in which disturbing advancements in technology have been announced.
An employee of Monsanto, who works for acquired company BeeLogics indicated their intent and research into modifying the genetic makeup of honeybees by means of RNAi protein control.
RNAi – when performed naturally by the body happens from the moment we are conceived until we die. It’s the body’s mechanism of producing different proteins for different purposes for the body. the “i” of RNAi stands for “interference”. New biological technology allows for the modification of the sequences that create proteins by turning sections of protein receptors/generators on and off.
According to the Monsanto employee, the use for honeybees will be to develop a resistance to varroa mites and other pests to the honeybee.
Here’s a truth as we know it…. Monsanto builds “bt” into their crops. This is to increase yields of their “licensed” crop seeds by inserting / building insecticides into the genetics of the plant themselves. This bt is built into the DNA sequencing of the plant itself – so it’s replicated by both mitosis and meiosis. It becomes a part of the plant body cell production, as well as into it’s reproductive cells.
Pollen is the male-portion (sperm) of a plant’s reproductive system, and is carried by honeybees as well as other pollinators. This bt-laced “food” or protein source for the bees will affect their ability to reproduce…. After all – bt is used as a larvacide to interrupt the life cycle of pest insects to the crop. Unfortunately – bt also affects beneficial insects.
My prediction is that Monsanto and BeeLogics intent is to alter the DNA sequences of the honeybee – so that it can be tolerant to the bt toxins that are already built into their seeds. They benefit by having increased pollination, and potentially lower losses of honeybees. As well as the “press” that they are providing a fix for losses of bees by CCD.
The problem (to me) – is that these bees would NEVER have developed these gene sequences in the normal and natural process of evolution. They are developing a new animal – that is “Monsanto BT-ready” – and will likely have to be licensed (and costly) to beekeepers to perform a pollination service.
This is all disturbing… Very disturbing. My prediction is the “FrankenBee”.
When asked about the safety and security and potential side effects of this “control of a natural process” – his response was that “We just don’t know the long term effects”.
What does that mean? That means that there is the potential for these genetic codes to alter more than BT resistance (or varroa tolerance / hygienic behavior). It’s unknown (as far as we know) what side effects may occur. Will traits be passed on from the eggs of a fertile queen to the worker brood? How about to the drones that provide genetics to new virgin queens that they mate with? What behavioral changes might be affected by the bees? Aggressiveness? Lazy bees? Will they continue with the symptoms of neonicotinoid poisoning? (forget where they live, and not return to their hives?)
The mantra that was repeated over and over by the Monsanto employee was that the control of RNAi was a “normal and natural” thing. Bullshit. Yes – the body performs RNA control from the moment we are conceived until we die. But this is not CONTROLLED by people with agendas and profit margins. It’s controlled by the body in response to internal and external environment. When individuals representing corporations start making these changes – there can only be one reason. Financial. Corporations exist to make a profit. Therefore control of food, seeds, and the processes and distribution of food is for financial goals.
Does this seem cynical and fear-based? You bet. But guess what? This is a REALITY that we’re about to be dealing with as beekeepers and food producers.
What can you do? Let your lawmakers and policy makers know that you will not re-elect them if they continue to pander to the corporate whims of Monsanto (and similar companies) that develop and promote genetically modified plants and organisms. Urge food producers to discontinue use of GM products in their ingredients. Buy locally – from farmers and food preparers that you KNOW and can personally verify their production processes.
Be involved, and be informed.
We’re in the first week of February – and today was in the low 70′s (F). One of my nuc hives that I overwintered had an unusually high amount of activity around it today.
I noticed a LOT of bees circulating around a spot that where the nuc had originally placed at about 3-4 weeks ago. So many – that I thought that the bees were swarming – so placed a nuc within a foot or two of where the bees were flying. Some started to enter the nuc (which had a frame of old-comb in it) – but the swarm decided to move on. A few minutes later – all the activity was back to the original box that they came from.
This particular nuc has tended to be one of the more aggressive colony of bees of all that I have in this particular spot. I opened up their box yesterday to check as to whether a queen was present, and if so – if she was laying eggs/brood yet.
After pulling the first frame, both hands had about 100-200 bees on EACH hand. Stinging – not just warning me. Glad I was wearing my 9-mil industrial latex gloves! I’ll feed some nectar tomorrow – and will hopefully have more mellow bees the next time I fire up the smoker to check on them.
In other apiary news – I’ll be bringing all the bees from one of my out-yards back to the city. I’ll be doing some queen-rearing on my own to increase the number of hives in my bee-yard, and it’ll be convenient to have the eggs, larvae and brood at quick arm’s length to do the work.
January 28th – A red-letter day for the 2013 year. Pollen is coming in from at least three local sources. I witnessed bees bringing in pale yellow/white as well as orange and a dark red pollen. The dark red is most likely henbit pollen. The other two – unknown – but VERY welcome to be brought into the hives.
I’m looking forward to a productive year of growth and prosperity with the honeybees!
I know that we’ll have a few more cold spats before spring is *really* here – but here’s today’s update from the bee-yard.
After our freezes over the holidays. The 2 youngest nucs (which were rescues) did not survive the cold. The other nucs that were started earlier in the fall – doing fantastic! It was warm enough to do open feeding in the bee-yard today.
On another note – I’ve already started receiving calls for honeybee removals. Unless a homeowner absolutely HAS to have the bees out now – I try to schedule for either (a) the warmest day possible – preferably above 70 deg. F. (21c) or (b) later in the spring when nighttime temps are consistently above 50 deg. F. (10c).
Another late-in-the-year honeybee rescue/removal performed yesterday – just as the rains and cooler weather came through. The NTTA needed the bees removed from an irrigation valve box near the Addison Airport toll tunnel.
They had called an exterminator that uses “Bees” in part of their company their name to imply that they are beekeepers. They are NOT. And they had quoted an outrageous price to come kill the bees. The NTTA folks were concerned for the bees, and decided to call me to perform a live bee removal. I’m glad they did!
As we approach December of 2012, I wanted to remind folks that if temperatures are lower than about 75 degrees outside, then try not to open up your hives at ALL.
The only exception that I can think of at the moment would be to add fondant for feeding – and then it needs to be a FAST open, set it in, and close. See my post from back on November 18th for a recipe and directions for making bee-candy – or fondant. ( recipe HERE )
When doing this – you can either set the candy directly on top of the frames, or on top of an inner-cover that has a hole in the top of it to allow the bees to come and go at-will. Either way – you may need to set a reduced-size spacer on top of your current setup in order to allow room for the candy. Note, though, that you don’t want too much space, as this adds to the volume of airspace that the bees will have to overcome when generating heat to keep their cluster warm. My suggestion would be to use an inner cover – that way their heat is maintained in a more consistent manner. – and any propolizing that is done to seal up cracks does not have to be broken. Then place a spacer board on top of the inner cover. The spacer can be 1x lumber (which is really 3/4″ in thickness) – and possibly 2 to 3 inches in height to offer space for the candy. You may want to add soy flour or pollen substitute to the candy. If they don’t want or need it, then they won’t take it. It’s better to have it available for them, though.
One of my hives has propolized their entrance down to about a 3/8″ hole. If you don’t already have entrance reducers in place – depending upon your temperatures – it’s probably past time to reduce them down. This is also an effective method of retaining their heat. If you use a screened bottom board, then you can slide in a thin sheet of plywood, or a sheet of appropriately sized (cut) coroplast sign. These are the material that the coroplast signs are made of. Check right after an election with someone who ran for office for extra signs to use. Otherwise, maybe a sign shop has misprints or culls that they could donate for your cause.
A jar of honey can go a long way in bartering for materials.
In all – remember these things:
Bees try to maintain about 95 deg. F inside their hive. If you open up their hive unnecessarily, or when it’s too cold, they may freeze to death.
Condensation can form inside the hive if there is not a little ventilation to allow it’s exit. This condensation can freeze, and make your winter cluster of bees a frozen clump of bees.
If you can prepare for the worst, and offer your bees the environment that best suits their needs for survival, then you should have bees in the coming spring.