Sunday, July 31, 2011

Swarm at Church of the Pilgrims

I had a big bee weekend this week, hitting almost all the hives we manage including those in the far reaches of Maryland and West Virginia.  My first stop on Saturday was the Church, which has two hives that have truly thrived without much attention or feeding from me, a testament to to the ample foraging opportunities in our city.  Their Russian hive has filled up two deeps and I am considering adding a honey super, and their Italian hive, installed in May, needed a second box which is why I was there on Saturday.

These hives were in great shape and thus a few minutes to fill the feeders and add a pollen patty to each hive was all it took.  I noticed nothing unusual in the behavior of the hives.

I got a call from the church pastor later in the day, while I was in LaPlata, telling me she heard that one of the hives had swarmed with the bees sitting on a branch.  I was surprised as a swarm this late in the season is unusual, but was convinced when she sent me a picture of the bees.

I got there about 4 o'clock to witness the ball of bees.  It was an impressive size, I guess at least five pounds of bees.  I luckily had a spare nuc box in the car from my day's work so I was fully equipted.

As I have mentioned in this blog before, a swarm is not dangerous or aggressive as the bees have no hive or honey to defend, and have bellies full of honey in preparation of building a new hive.  To prove that to some bystanders I stuck my bare hand into the ball of bees.  I wish I had my video camera!

With on aggressive shake of the branch (which was at ground level) the bees fell into the nuc box, into which I quickly added some frames of drawn honeycomb and popped on the lid.

These bees cannot be reintroduced to their original hive as that hive has bred a new queen in anticipation of the swarming behavior.  So these bees will be used to start a new hive in the District.  They are now living happily in a nucleus hive on my roof, eating sugar syrup and rebuilding their new home.

A review of the hives I visited this weekend.
  • Walker Jones School:  Added a deep super to the Italian hive, fed.
  • PG County Community College:  Installed a nuc to the dead colony, fed both hives.
  • EatWellDC in LaPlata:  Fed the three hives, introduced a Nuc to a dead colony.
  • Arcadia: Doing much better, fed each of the 5, the nuc I introduced has taken well.
  • Fresh and Local CSA (W.Va):  Fed each of the hives, had to boost a couple of hives with frames from others.
  • Patowmack Farm:  Three hives are in reasonable shape, added a frame of open brood to left-most hive as it appeared queenless.  Fed each.
  • Boneta Reserve:  After lots of effort the right hand hive is now full of eggs thanks to a laying queen.  The older hive is doing well and will need a second box shortly.  Fed.

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