Apr. 9th, 2012

doodlemaier: (Default)
[personal profile] doodlemaier
a swarm of honeybees alighting on a fence rail between two bushes in the dark It was the evening of March 28th, 2012 when Mrs. called through a network of people (mostly, my brother) who have access to me on weeknights because I stubbornly refuse to carry a cell phone. She wanted to tell me that Brigid had swarmed earlier that day causing a ruckus at the neighbors and the bees were last seen clustered on the rail fence between us and the Yates' house. I asked her to check for me if they were still there, as it was near 9:30 at night and I was just turning in. Sure, enough! they hadn't moved on yet and would stay put throughout the night time. I dropped everything a drove back the 70 miles to Strasburg and this is what it looked like when I found them an hour and half later.

the beekeeper proudly displays the hive where he housed his first swarm. I spent a couple hours and never seemed to have enough hands to scoop up a swarm in the dark, otherwise a low-hanging fruit because I didn't have to go up on a ladder in the dark trying to manage a brush, a bucket and flashlight at he same time. Even after getting the majority of the cluster into a hive, and relatively certain of having captured the queen it was difficult to sleep that night for all the excitement. I was up early and unplugged the bung at the entrance of the hive releasing the cluster into the warm day to forage. As the sun exposed the front door of their new home the bees gathered and started fanning their Nasonov glands into the air in the manner they do to attract any stragglers of the swarm to the new digs. According to my very limited experience of bee wrangling that was pretty much their approval of the terms of lease and the agreement was sealed. My wife took this picture of the victorious beekeeper and I went to my day job confident of having just expanded my apiary by 100%!

heavy bearding on a newly hived swarm is a sign that they plan to abscond No sooner than I arrive at work and Mrs. calls to inform me that the new colony were bearding at the entrance. I couldn't tell her whether this was normal or not and asked that she keep an eye on them as best she could. The behavior in this instance made me uneasy. A hour later she called again after having run an errand. The bearding had grown since and even she had the impression by then that they had no intention of staying. She described the cluster at the entrance in terms of a tub draining in reverse, and as she watched while on the phone with me the bees began leaving the hive in droves and filling the air! Time to beg out of work and stage an interception!

the beekeeper in a veil manages a severed branch clustered with bees with his bare hands. Seventy miles and another hour and half of gasoline and traffic I'm back in Strasburg. The bees have taken up in a bush very near where they were the night before. Sensible people, perhaps, might've allowed the swarm to escape at this point but I was galvanized in my resolve to catch them again by the fact that the queen in the initial swarm of the season - this queen - was my survivor stock, the queen that reared a colony so strong that they decided to expand; and second year queen at that (generally regarded as their most productive season). Daylight was a huge improvement over trying to determine any sense from the swarm within the beam of a flashlight. This time I had the foresight to make up a baggie feeder of sugar syrup to hold them over for the couple days they were to spend confined to hive before I was able to make it back to the valley again. The sugar gives workers the nutrition they need to start drawing comb and stimulates the queen to begin laying. Once there were some eggs for the house bees to watch after the swarm will stay pretty well put. I think the proximity to the mother hive is what prompted them to abscond.


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