There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Silver Spoon and the Bee Tree

[Next post from the original first year blog. Edited to update it.]

Just an update. The saying goes "a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon." About the middle of June I rescued a small swarm and put it in the hive at Karen and Maria's place. A week later the colony is thriving and has filled about 1/4 of the 48" TBH. They seem happy, productive and quite content in their new home, despite the last swarm we introduced there absconding a week or so later. The girls act like they know they are a 'silver spoon'.

Another friend called to have me come look at a giant old oak tree that had a colony inside. What lovely, docile bees! A year or so before the colony had a swarm leave the tree and settle in the well house 50 feet away in a very inconvenient area for bees and humans alike. All indications appear to indicate that the oak tree colony isn't a good candidate for a cut-out. And although the tree is close to the house and other outbuildings that have lots human activity, we decided to try to set a bait hive up to control the swarms as they leave the oak tree. We'll just let the main colony remain in the oak forever, nobody is disturbed by the presence of the bees.

I set up the Warre' I had at home (where the bees also absconded) next to the oak tree and baited it with lemongrass oil and some pieces of the leftover comb. Hopefully any swarms will just take up residence and not stray any further.

We'll see.

Meanwhile K&M's new bees are carrying in lots of pollen and have taken over pollination chores in their lovely garden.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Easy Come, Easy Go Bees

[Next post from the original first year blog. Edited to update it.]

Absconding. I learned about it over the last couple of weeks. Two of the swarms we captured decided they didn’t like the accommodations, and moved on. We watched one of them leave, being unable to discourage them. They decided to swarm first to an inaccessible branch and then within a few minutes take off for the treeline over the fence. Gone.

I came home from that absconsion to my brand new Warre` hive to find that they, too, had decided to vacate, not even leaving word for the poor half-dozen foragers who came home to find an empty hive too. They’re still hanging out on the little comb the colony built. Two hives, absconding on the same day at about the same time.

Like any newbeek, the first question I asked was “What did I do wrong?” Was it the hive? Did the bees hate plywood? Did the paint fumes offend them? I thought for awhile that the advice I got about opening the hive and removing that piece of a branch I had installed with them on it was the culprit action. Too much manipulation in a short time. Then a couple of guys from the Beekeepers Assoc suggested that perhaps there were too many yellow jackets around. The bees absconded just as the yellow jackets were getting established in the areas near both hives. Turns out that both Karen’s hive and my Warre` hive had mowing right around them just before the abscondings. So there's a lot of clues, and you can take your pick of what to blame for the leaving.

It’s been two weeks since the bees left, now. I don’t think I’m gonna pinpoint why it happened. Seems to be a favorite topic for beekeepers to theorize, guess, and pontificate about; why bees abscond. There's no definitive answer, even in all the literature. I’m writing this into the notes for a future newbeek manual as another of those questions they don’t tell you about when you first get started.

Meantime, the two hives at Eagle’s Rest are doing just fine.