It is still very much winter, however, the bees that have survived the winter are starting to build up their brood. On warm days, folks are noticing honeybee activity coming to and from their chosen homes. Unfortunately, sometimes the honeybees have chosen your home to move into. Usually, they choose to move in under the eve, above the soffit board.
If you have honeybees living in your home, barn, shed, or other outbuilding – They can be humanely removed by a competent beekeeper. Call Rex Smith of Harmony Hollow Apiary to learn more. We will need to know: How long have the bees been there? How high is the entrance that you see the activity at? Type of material (brick wall, wood/pressboard siding, hardi-siding, etc), as well as what sort of interaction you have had with them. (do they bump you or warn you that you are in “their space”?
You later in the spring, you may also notice a “swarm” or “ball of bees” that may be the size of a volleyball or larger (I have caught swarms that are double the size of a basketball before!).
Rex Smith holds a honeybee removal permit from the Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS) and manages his honeybees at various organically run farms outside of the Dallas Metroplex and East Texas. Call 469-251-2BEE (2233) for information regarding CNG (Certified Naturally Grown) honey or to discuss honeybee removals.
This week I have received word that my Apiary has been approved for “Certified Naturally Grown” in 2014. For those unfamiliar with what that means – it’s an alternative certification – very similar to “Organic” certification.
CNG Standards are very similar to those required for the national “Organic” standards – with the main difference being the inspection portion of the certification. With CNG – the inspections are performed by local peers in your field. With CNG – other beekeepers examine my hives and my beekeeping practices – and certify that they feel that my methods comply with natural and sustainable practices.
There are currently about 700 CNG certified farms and apiaries in the United States – and Harmony Hollow Apiaries is (currently) one of only two certified apiaries in Texas.
To find a Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) farm or apiary near you – or to see the standards that a CNG certified farm or apiary must adhere to – see their site at: http://www.NaturallyGrown.org
This is proving to be an exciting year for us at Harmony Hollow Apiary – and I look forward to seeing where the bees take us in the future.
Welcome, and “thank you” to all the new folks who have “Liked” our page for Harmony Hollow Apiaries. With the winter solstice yesterday, and the re-drawing out of the day lengths, our new year begins for our beekeeping world. In a few weeks, if temps are warm enough, and if the bees have enough stores of pollen and open nectar, the queens should start laying eggs again – and a new brood of young bees will welcome in spring and all the new growth, pollen and nectar – and this next year will be a GREAT year of growth for the bee yard!
This has been a winter of winters so far this year – and we’re not even officially to winter, yet!
I’m anxious to get out to the bee-yard and assess the hives. Once the ice and nastiness melts away, and the fields are dry enough to drive in – I’ve got a few hives to move, and will check on them all (without opening them up!)
The honeybees have been very busy this summer! Feral hives that normally would have cast off (probably) one swarm, have had strange temperature cycles here in North Texas that have encouraged 3-4 swarms being produced. This means that beekeepers have been very busy performing swarm pick-ups as well as colony removals.
For anyone wanting to keep up with a few pictures of my honeybee removals – please “Like” my FaceBook page for Harmony Hollow Apiaries.
Many of the hives of honeybees that were removed from residences or collected as swarms and nursed to strength have been moved up to full 10-frame commercial-sized boxes. They are now re-orienting to a new field and feasting on some of the best forage that can be provided – land used as an organic farm, and the surrounding fields chock-full of blooming wildflowers.
We are looking forward to their continued growth and benefits of their pollination of the organic crops – that make it to our dinner tables and restaurants here in the Dallas metroplex.
With our cool spring weather, the swarm season this years seems to be a long one. Calls continue to come in consistently with new swarms arriving in residential areas of the city. Some originate from hives that already live in the walls or eves of homes or building structures – and some emit from natural / greenbelt areas. Either way – we recommend that you call a beekeeper to perform the honeybee recovery.
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.