Went out to the hive that swarmed anyway, without smoke, like a dumbass, to check it. Every single frame is empty, dry as a bone. No brood. A little pollen. Zero nectar/honey. I did find some open queen cells, but couldn’t spot a queen. There were quite a number of bees in the box, and they were mighty pissed off. I got two more stings out of it. I’m not sure if they were just in the to rob out any little bit they could or if they actually lived there. I’m hoping the latter, it would suck to have the entire hive abscond. At least I know my agenda for tomorrow morning: thorough hive inspections. With the smoker and a lot of fuel to make sure I can take my time.
Half the mowing done. When you can hear the thunder through your earplugs over the drone of the tractor, it’s time to stop for the time being and get back in the house. I did make it partially to the orchard/beeyard, and I think the swarmed hive may have actually been two swarms and completely absconded. The feeder I put on that hive this morning is empty, and I believe the other bees are robbing it out. That will take some investigation, which will have to wait a bit until this storm passes. Can’t do much good for the bees if you’re setting yourself out as a lightning target. I hope they’re not all gone. That would be a pity, although it would immediately free a box for a late season split. It isn’t like our winters are hideous around here, so they’d have plenty of time to make a queen, have her mate, and get going before the chill arrives. We shall see.
Fed the bees this morning and took a look into a few, trying to see if I could determine which hive cast the swarm. I believe I found it: the number five hive, which itself was a split from another hive. The queen must have been amazingly productive, as the super and the top brood box were totally empty of all stores. Lack of food will cause them to swarm as they go off looking for greener pastures. I got two stings for my trouble, and for not taking the smoker out with me on this overcast day, but set a feeder on them to get them going again. I’ll have to go back through it, and probably reduce it back down to one brood box to let them build up again. I went through the others on the same hive stand, and they were all fine. Next step: moving to the next hive stand, to break down those hives and see what they have going on. With the smoker. My biggest problem is bees getting caught in the creases in my suit, so when I bend or move my arm to do something, they get crushed and I get a sting in an uncomfortable place (like the crook of my left arm and the inside of the bicep on my right arm). Fun times, kids.
Lost the swarm. That’s the way it goes.
Bees – 4
Me – 0
This swarm apparently simply does not want to be caught. Even with a good soaking of sugar water, they won’t clump well and fall into the hive. Instead, the inner core breaks out and they all start flying around, landing back on the trunk of the tree and crawling up to wherever the queen is. If I’d managed to get her in the damn box, they would have happily crawled in, but it seems the pieces of the swarm I did manage to knock down did not have her in it. I left the hive out anyway, as there’s a storm rolling up, and perhaps they’ll be smart enough to take cover in the hive. Or, perhaps they’ll give me a final “fuck you” and fly off somewhere else.
What this means going forward is that I need to disassemble some of the older hives to check for swarm cells, food stores, and so on, as we head into the end of the season. I know this swarm did not come from the five new package hives because the queens in those are clipped (that is, one wing has been cut, so they cannot fly). When those queens need to be superceded, the bees will build a queen cup, and when the new queen hatches, the old one will be dispatched by her. The old hives, however, I’ve allowed to supercede as needed, and I have not requeened each year. Overall, I prefer to keep the genetics going of the bees that have survived in our particular climate. In this case, the old queen will swarm out of the hive with a bunch of workers, leaving the rest of the bees to take care of the new queen. The question is: which of those hives did this swarm come from? The answer involves backbreaking work to look into the older hives, to check for swarm cells in hives that might be thinking about swarming – in which case, they need to be split, with some bees, food, and brood (with at least one egg that is one to three days old, as the bees need that to create a new queen) moved to another hive body. I might be able to tell from which hive this swarm originated during the inspection process and determine why they swarmed.
So, my shitty week remains the same. Swell.
Bees – 3
Me – 0
Managed to get up a tad bit higher this morning after returning from the vet, and found the swarm had clumped up a bit better – but again, alas, even nearer the trunk of the tree. I got a good spray on them, and did actually managed to dislodge some of them in a clump, but the distance to fall was too great, and not many actually landed. I watched them for awhile, and saw some checking out th hive body, then flying back up. I figured I’d give them a bit to see if the scouts would get them moving to the hive, and went inside to (finally) have some breakfast. The branch they were on is visible from the window near my desk, and while waiting for the coffee to finish, I glanced out: the swarm was gone. So I ran back outside, to see if I could see them in the air, and what do you know? They had gotten pissed off enough at the other location to reposition. Now they are on a small tree, near the shed, about five feet off the ground. I had thought round three would be the last fail and be a perfect example of the shitty week I’ve had thus far, but there seems to be life in this chase yet. After I chug some of this shake and coffee as quickly as possible, I’m going to run back out and reposition the gear to see if I can capture them before they take off for good.
Bees – 2
Me – 0
Went out and gave it another go. They are simply too high off the ground and getting to them is next to impossible. I’m hoping the ones I did manage to escort into the hive body will go back to their colleagues and tell them what a sweet little new home they found. It is now lightning and thundering very close to the ranch, so that ends our “capture the swarm” game for today.
Bees – 1
Me – 0
The two baby swarms joined up into one ball…at the trunk side of the branch, the harder of the two spaces to reach. Naturally. Ungrateful bitches. I wasn’t able to get close enough to them with the first setup and attempt to spray them with sugar water to keep them still and then be able to drop them in a clump. I did spray them as well as was possible and tried to scrape them off, but I’m just about six inches too short with the setup I had, and there was no satisfying plop of bees into the hive below them. If they’re still hanging out there later, towards dusk, I’m going to have another go at them, hauling out the giant ladder I used when I was painting the barn and try to position it somehow in that small stand of saw palmettos. By the way, there’s a reason they have that name. Don’t start tromping around in them trying to get a working space and positioning a hive body in your shorts. It’s a bad idea.