Our luck in Davie has been mixed. The fire ants and wax moths have been a continued problem, and several of the hives have succumbed to these pests. The build-up we had hoped to capture during the brazilian pepper flow in September/October failed to materialize in a meaningful way, meaning back-filling with corn syrup, an adventure on its own with Dadant in High Springs, Florida (a six hour drive each way for us) the only supplier. Jerry has been down since (without his Tonto) and saw modest improvement after the syrup feeding and substantial pollen patty supplementation, but Tuesday will prove out where we are after these last four months.
One bright spot for me (and boy did I need one) was the accidental capture of a swarm in one of my vacant hives, sorely needed to get my numbers up. The opportunity to capture a few more swarms, coupled with a considerable number of dead queens I had in cages in the house, has stimulated my desire to capture a few more, especially as we bring the hives to the citrus.
Don the FatBeeMan is a considerable and important figure in our business, and I like to tap his wisdom when possible. One bit of intelligence he has imparted is his technique for turning lemons into lemonade. Don shared an story about a customer who was complaining that the queen Don supplied had died. Undeterred, Don said, "bring me back the dead queen, and I'll replace it with a new one." And what did he do with the dead queen? Made swarm lure out of her which he sells for even more than his live queens!
This is an experiment to see if we can replicate the results Don has had with his lure concoction. Due to poor planning, poor shipping, and distraction, I found myself this winter staring at five queen cages full of nurse bees and a queen each. How did this happen? Either I got ahead of myself (as we beekeepers sometimes do) and ordered queens for nucs I could not split before their demise, or could not unload locally before they died. Lemonade, here I come, I hope.
We took the contents of each of the cages, including the nurse bees, emptied these carcasses and trash into the blender (don't tell Cath), added some premium vodka as a solvent and medium, and took the mix for a spin. We then transferred the brew to a squeeze bottle which we will take to Florida. Our plan? We will hit a couple of cotton balls with a small squeeze of the lure and place them in an empty hive with foundation and one frame of draw comb.
I'll report back in about 90 days with the results. If I get just two swarms to take root it will more than pay for my losses on the queens.
Here is the video: