Things were quiet – a little too quiet…

By | May 4, 2013

A lovely quiet, still, warm evening at the allotment. Or so it seemed...

A lovely, quiet, still, warm evening at the allotment. Or so it seemed…

Saturday was a mixed bag for me.
After a demoralising thumping 4-2 by relegated  Reading over Fulham, I wanted to see how the bees were doing with the Snelgrove board.

My first impressions were how calm the bees were. “This Snelgrove board is really doing the trick”, I proudly thought to myself. Then I realised how few bees there were. And that I couldn’t find the queen. Sadly she’d swarmed, and taken a good number of bees with her.

Strangely, I found a few freshly laid eggs in the bottom part of the hive she was previously in, which were likely only laid today. It suggested they had only swarmed this afternoon, and have a tendency to swarm on warm, still evenings. I closed the hive up, and thought there’s no harm in taking a brief look around the allotment. Bees usually swarm first around 20-30 feet away, until scouts find a more appropriate new place to hive.

The swarms first hop, on  a Magnolia tree

The swarms first hop, on a Magnolia tree

An oddly dark, rugby shaped ball caught my eye… Great! I’ve found them! Now, how to get them back in their boxes… (at 7 pm in the evening..)

A quick drive home to grab some boxes, a sheet to be potentially sacrificed (sorry Sas..), some long secateurs for branch trimming, and some swarm lure Sas and the bees had won in a photo competition should do the trick.

In short, you want to get the queen, and the rest will follow, but that’s easier said than done.

Initially the bees are clustered around the queen in a ball. The branch they had rested on was a little too high, requiring a chair and outstretched arms to reach. It took cuts to a few branches to get them into a box.

It was going to be hard to find the queen, with them splitting onto half a dozen separate branches

It was going to be hard to find the queen, with them splitting onto half a dozen separate branches

With each branch cut, I disturbed the cluster, which sends up a cloud of bees – making it harder to know if you have the queen in the split clusters, so I decided to just keep cutting branches off they landed on, and putting the branches in the box.

Next challenge, to get them in the hive. It was getting dark, and I didn’t have much time. Primarily I wanted to get them somewhere they would be warm, stay put, and importantly in a place I knew where they were..! I could deal with them in the morning, if I could get them in one spot.

They really liked those branches and I was running out of time, so why fight it? I decided to put all of the branches into an empty hive, and use their behaviour to my advantage. They simply couldn’t stay on those branches as it would be far too hard to manage the colony, but I could deal with that later. Shaking them off the branches also wasn’t going to work, and could potentially scatter them again.

So I elected to put all the bee covered magnolia cuttings into an empty hive, with an open crown board. On top of those crown board holes, I placed a nucleus with no floor containing empty frames, and some swarm lure. I’m anticipating as bees like to go upwards and be attracted by the swarm lure, they’ll move off the branches in the lower box, and up into their new home in the upper nucleus which will be much more manageable.

- Post script: well, it worked. The bees all made their way up into the top story nucleus, so I didn’t have to worry about them being on the magnolia branches any longer.

From the nucleus, it was easy to transfer them frame by frame into a full size hive, and back into the Snelgrove formation. I’m not certain if the queen is with  this errant bunch, and it will take a few days for her to show evidence that she’s there (eggs), if I don’t actually see her.

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