Girl Scout troop 3509 visited our apiary on April 21st to learn about the bees and beekeeping, their importance to mankind and how they make honey as a part of earning their Plants and Animals patch. They also got to sample several different flavors of Wildflower honey from the bees here in Alpharetta, Sourwood honey from my bees up in the mountains of North Carolina and comb honey – which most had not ever experienced before. As you can see they enjoyed themselves.
It’s been a real busy couple of weeks. We are right in the middle of the nectar flow here in Alpharetta and I have been busy putting the honey supers on the hives, creating more splits for the new queens I have reared , hosting a troop of Girl Scouts at the house to help them earn their Plants and Animals patch (more on that later) and retrieving a swarm (more on that too).
First, an update on the queen in the observation hive. I found her laying eggs on April 21st, so I marked her and installed her into the viewing area for the Girl Scouts and for the Farmers Market on the 25th. Here is a picture of her.
Notice that the fluorescent green dot really shows up. I use Elmers waterbased paint markers that are non toxic.
She has been extremely busy laying eggs and I cannot keep up with her, cycling in fresh comb for her to lay on, so I have decided to put her and her colony into a full sized hive body and see if I can get some honey from her this spring.
I received a call on Thursday afternoon from Deb Schmalshof up in Cumming, GA who said she had a swarm of bees on the side of an old abandoned house about 8 feet off the ground and wanted to know if I was interested in capturing it. She further explained that a colony had been living in this house for at least 4 years and this was not the first time she had seen the colony swarm. My initial thought was that if in fact it was a swarm, that it would probably not be there long before flying off to a new location. The fact that she said the colony had been there for 4 years intrigued me as I would like to include “survivor” colonies into my operation, so I said I would come to take a look.
After a 30 minute drive to Cumming we arrived to find that the “swarm” had gone back into the house. There were still a lot of bees on the outside, but it definitely did not look like a swarm. Their behavior though was very gentile and there was absolutely no aggressiveness displayed- which is one of the characteristics of a swarm.
Deb said that the house was scheduled to be demolished and would not mind if I tore into the siding to see if I could capture the bees. In fact, the bees needed to be rescued before the house was torn down. She offered me a crow bar, hammer and eventually a power reciprocating saw to access the bee colony. And here is what we found:
The comb filled the wall cavity between the studs and was over three feet long. It had definitely been there for a while- but was in remarkably good condition. While removing it I could find no brood or honey, but there was a LOT of bees. I finally concluded that there had definitely been a swarm, but rather than coming from the house, they were actually entering it to take over the comb that another colony had constructed. I had brought a cardboard nuc with me with a couple of frames of drawn comb with honey and pollen. After spraying the bees with sugar water with a spray bottle, I proceeded to gather bees on the remaining comb and bee brush and shake them into the nuc box. This went on for some time until I had a lot of the bees in it. There was absolutely no way to see if we had the queen in the box and the bees were not acting like we did. Normally if you capture a swarm queen all the bees will follow her into the nuc or hive or clump up around her where ever she is. We had a few remaining clumps of bees that I brushed into the box.
After transferring most of the bees I could into the nuc, I decided to leave the nuc there in the opening overnight, hoping that the drawn comb and honey and bees we had in the box would attract the queen (if we didn’t already have her) and remaining bees. I propped it up with a handy push broom and step stool.
I returned the next morning to retrieve the box to find almost no bees outside it. After arriving home, I proceeded to install the nuc into a full 10 frame hive body. I installed a couple of drawn frames containing pollen and honey from another hive at the house and 3 more frames of foundation. When I opened up the nuc box I was greeted with bees looking at me from between all 5 frames and the inside cover full of bees. After applying a little smoke I transferred each frame from the nuc to the full sized hive body after checking it for the queen.
And lo-and-behold, there she was on the frame of partially drawn comb! The swarm has got to be happy in their new furnished home, complete with a stocked pantry.
Thanks to Deb for the pictures and concern for the bees.