Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sometimes, it Bees like that

Our day yesterday:

A very eventful afternoon! We headed out about an hour ago to go collect eggs and finish the trellis for the sugar snap peas over here. We have little baby peas growing right now, so hopefully they will be at market soon!! Found where someone had cut our trellis line again this year. Absolutely no doubt it is a person. Yesterday two lines were cut very cleanly in one place. Today, both lines were cut very cleanly in another place. So it is time to get back out there on late night shotgun patrol 

While I was working on fixing the trellis, Jan shrieked from the other end of the row. I looked up to see a big swarm of bees in a ball about 6 feet across where she had been standing a moment ago. They looked stationary, so I figured they would stay put for a minute while I finished fixing the cut trellis, but no, by the time I looked back up they had vamoosed. Spent the next 30 minutes or so trekking around where they had gone, but to no avail. IF ANYONE IN OUR AREA FINDS A SWARM OF BEES, LET US KNOW 

After the search, I headed back to check our hives. Looks like both our colonies are still intact. There are 2 possibilities, either those weren't our bees, and it was someone else's bees, or a wild swarm or, one of our colonies split.

It is a natural part of a bee colonies life cycle to split and swarm every so often. What happens is that the colony feels it is doing well enough to form a second colony. The worker bees will raise a new Queen, and when she is ready, the old queen will leave. The workers split between the old queen and the new queen. Those that chose to go with the old queen will form a swarm outside the hive, usually in a tree. The queen will settle down and all the workers will land on her and form a big mass of bees. Scouts will then head out and look for a new location for the colony. Once they have found one, they come back, tell everyone and they head off en mass to the new location. That is what I think we saw was a swarm heading to a new location.

The bees that choose to stay with the new queen stay in the existing hive. They have the benefit of a known location, all of the food stores that the colony has accumulated and all the eggs and brood (baby bees) that were being raised. The upshot is they loose some numbers of worker bees for a short amount of time, but are fully ready to continue with the brood repopulating the colony numbers back up to a strong level in a short amount of time.

Either way, it doesn't hurt us whether it was our colony that split or another one that was passing through, it was just a missed opportunity to capture them in the swarm stage and install them in a new hive to increase our colony numbers. We do keep a bait hive in our bee yard for such occasions, but, at least in this case, it wasn't what they were looking for 

If you do see a swarm, don't panic. When they are swarming like this they are paying attention to finding a new location, and domestic honey bees are not usually aggressive during a swarm. If you see them in a ball up in a tree or wherever, alert a local bee keeper. If you suddenly find a new colony has moved in someplace on your property either enjoy the bounty or contact a local bee keeper to have them removed.

Getting back

The last year has been brutal for us. Since my last post I was laid off at my government job. After a big period of shock and denial, we have decided to dedicate ourselves primarily to running the farm. To do so, we will be taking it a lot more seriously than we have in the past. That means trying to keep up with things like updating web pages and regularly adding to blogs. So here is hoping you see lots from us from this point forward :-)