Jun. 20th, 2012

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[personal profile] doodlemaier
an attempt to trap-out a colony of honeybees ensconced within a brick wall The idea behind the trap-out is to engineer a method by which foraging bees of a colony ensconced within a wall or other structure where their presence is unwelcome are able to exit their nest but aren't able to return. Within eight to ten weeks the economy of the feral colony is gradually interrupted to point where the ensconced queen will eventually cease egg-laying and vacate the occupied structure. In the mean time, the beekeeper provides an empty hive body that holds a frame of day-old eggs and is otherwise filled with drawn comb so that the returning foragers that are at that point "trapped-out" have a place to shelter and the motivation and means to rebuild via the frame of fresh (queen-worthy) eggs. The cone is fabricated from a piece of 1/8" mesh hardware cloth and installed over the original entrance by means of a makeshift flange. This is usually a piece of plywood drilled to allow the mesh cone to slip through the front and then be stapled and caulked on the back. The flange or adapter is then caulked or otherwise sealed around the edges so that bees aren't able to push their way back in through the original entrance. Because of the optical illusion of many, many holes created by the mesh cone and because of the force of habit to return the location of the original entrance the returning bees are unable to navigate their way back into their nest and are instead prompted by the smell of brood and eventually queen-rightness of the surrogate hive body. For this reason the "empty" hive body or bait box should be placed as close to the entrance of the ensconced colony as possible, preferably touching so that returning foragers can walk, and not fly, into the replacement hive.

On a recent visit to his parents my brother-in-law noticed the activity of this colony of bees at the top of an eight foot exterior brick wall right beneath the soffit of their split-level home in Colonial Heights, VA just outside of Richmond. Only a couple days after he and I had installed this boondoggle in front of the house he reported that the bees had already pushed a hole through the thick layer of caulk I sealed the edge of the 2x4 I used to mount the mesh cone over the entrance. I might employ a thick clay for this step in future applications. It's worth mentioning, as well, that the mesh really ought to be made from 1/8" mesh hardware cloth and not aluminum screen, or any other woven mesh as it is wont to unravel when being scrunched into the tiny end of the cone, the opening of which should only be large enough for two drones to exit simultaneously.
doodlemaier: (Default)
[personal profile] doodlemaier
This morning I discovered this open-comb, free-hanging, feral honey bee nest in my backyard at Medford. Naturally I'm wondering where this colony came from and how long they've been in the tree. It's not likely that either of the Easter colonies had the time/resources to swarm again so early in the season. They could be another random product of 2012 Swarmapalooza season, or my theory is that these are the survivors of a colony, Isis, that I kept at this location last year which I thought had succumbed early after I attempted to transition the summer cluster into a framed hive body, but I never did find the queen among the too few dead bees left behind in the hive. I remember being suspicious at the time that they might have absconded. The colonies that I have situated at this location presently were both acquired this season on Easter day, one as an early swarm from my own hive on Easter morning in Strasburg, and the other inhabited a bait box later that afternoon in nearby Bentonville. Hence the name the Easter Apiary at Medford

There are four large distinct combs, ranging in size from a Whamo Frisbee Flying Disc up to that of a standard toilet seat lid. I was hanging out this morning having coffee with the bees and they've been testy for days. Quite out of the blue I was stung on the head for standing there minding their business. I decided it was time to head to work after that and from the driveway, thinking about the sting on the top of my head, I looked up where the large nest apparent. I wonder how I didn't see it sooner.

Had they been there all winter? If this colony is Isis it means that they would've had to overwinter in the open, and for me not to notice them especially without the coverage of summer leaves the cluster would have to have been a lot smaller. Is overwintering like that feasible? Or are they just a random wild swarm? If so, when did they arrive and why there? They would've likely had to have developed that location before I moved the Easter swarms, in that I find it an unlikely choice for a feral colony to take up in such a close proximity to established colonies.

The nest is about fifty feet up in the storm-torn maple tree that hangs over the tiny Easter apiary. Can you see it there? (just left of top dead center) Last year Isis sat in the little shady cloister behind the chair.


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