We’ve been anxiously awaiting one so that we could begin establishing the new hives that Peer built
Sunday was our lucky day!
Hives tend to swarm on warm dry days between 11am and 2pm, at least they do around here. Peer noticed the swarm beginning to build around 1:30pm. They fly in something like a funnel shape, round and round, directly above the hive until most of them have gathered. At that point they flew straight up and onto a branch at the very top of a 100 ft oak tree…just perfect! No way we can reach them way up there! So we thought we had lost them. We walked away disappointed and went about our business.
About 10 minutes later, Peer sticks his head in the doorway and tells me there is another swarm forming! Yay!
We stood on the porch and watched them, but they gradually seem to be dissipate…”how strange!” we thought. I had a pair of binoculars and started looking around the tops of the branches for the first swarm…it was gone! Well, that meant that the swarm we thought was a second swarm was really the first one, but why did it return to the hive? Then it dawned on us. We still have one of the original queens that we bought last year. She has a wing clipped and can’t fly! So when the swarm left, she simply fell out onto the ground and then crawled underneath the hive. The swarm didn’t realize this at first but then they found her and gathered with her underneath the original hive….some of you might remember that this is the same thing we had happen last year.
So here they are, all crammed up underneath the hive…
It’s hard to see exactly what is going on from this picture so here is a front view of the hive…
The only way to get them out is to move the whole hive, which is REALLY heavy!
We waited until about 6:30pm when the hives were slowing down for the night. Peer had a friend come over and help. He’s a friend who is thinking about getting into beekeeping so we thought this would be a great experience for him :O)
They’re getting ready; putting on veils, lighting the bee pipe, etc. They wear light colored clothing because the bees are not as disturbed by lighter colored clothing…I of course chose dark blue for the occasion…lol! They only chased me off a few times, but none of us got stung…Jens, Peer’s friend, did get some nettle stings which are actually worse in my opinion.
The first thing Peer does is spray the bees with water. This gets their wings wet and they can’t fly until they are dried off again.
They can’t move the hive all in one piece, the honey room on top is full again and so the whole hive is way too heavy, especially for trying to lift it in the ackward position that it is in, so they move it in sections.
First the top, which is the honey room.
Then they move the main 2 rooms…looks easier on the picture than it really was!
Now that the hive is out of the way, Peer sprays them down again…
And dumps them into a plastic container.
Once he has the majority in the container, he dumps them into their new home.
There is really no easy way to get the bees into the new box properly. He dumps them into the upside-down wooden box, but then he has to turn that box right-side up again. Anyway, it is really hard to do without squashing some bees no matter how carefully you do it, you just have to hope you aren’t also squashing the queen. After this first time, Peer has an idea for how he might do this part differently next time.
And so, here they are after inverting that top box, everyone is in and it’s time to close up this hive. Before the roof goes on, there is a smaller box which is full of wooden packing material, this acts as a layer of insulation.
Then comes the roof.
The bees are doing their little dance, with butts raised high in the air and wings vibrating which is their way of telling other bees that the queen is here.
This picture shows how different this new hive is in size and shape when compared to our old ones…personally I think it’s really cute and if I was a bee, I’d want to live there :O)
And so, here is the hive a full 2 full days since we moved the swarm in. By the way, this isn’t the complete hive, there are 2 additional boxes that are added to the bottom. As the hive grows, the bees keep building downward. As they go, they fill the top boxes with honey and move the living and hatching areas into the lower boxes. This is opposite of the way it is done in more traditional style beekeeping systems, but it is the way the bees do it in the wild. They seem to be taking to their new home very well. They’re quite busy, flying in and out, doing their thing just as they should be :o)
It will be interesting to see over time, how this system works for us, we’ll keep you posted!