While I was checking hives on Saturday, I suddenly noticed bearding on the back of one of our weak hives. I was in the middle of inspecting a strong hive, so all I could do was keep an eye on them. The beard grew and then the dancing started — clearly a swarm in progress. I puffed smoke in their direction in the slim hope that they’d go back where they came from, but of course they didn’t. However, they only moved about 20 feet away and then they settled on a pine branch about a foot off the ground. (What a time for my phone to be up in the camper charging!)
I grabbed a NUC, dropped it off by the swarm and and ran to the shipping container as fast as my tired legs and boots would allow to get the spray bottle and bee brush. I splashed some more Pro Health into the sugar water because bees like the smell even more than I do and hurried back to the swarm. I had plenty of frames with drawn comb because I’d already reduced some of the hives down to one brood box, so I set up the NUC, sprayed some sugar water with Pro Health on the frames, gently brushed the bees from the branch and watched the workers crawl down into the frames. The queen soon followed and then the bulk of the remaining bees followed her. I slid the inner cover across and then went to get my phone, giving them time to settle in. When I returned, there were still some bees flying around, so I just put a cover on and left them there until the end of the day. Hubby suggested that I put a frame of brood in the NUC, and the next hive I inspected had plenty to spare, so that worked out too.
The hive next to the one on which they’d bearded turned out to be empty, so I think that’s where they came from. There were only 3 frames of bees in there last check, but I couldn’t collapse them down to one brood box because it was too cold to remove frames that trip — that’s a disadvantage of stapling the bottom brood box to the bottom board. There were quite a few small hive beetles in the frames, so that may be the reason they decided to go elsewhere. There were no dead bees in the bottom of the hive or around the hive, so swarming seems to be a more likely than a dead out.
With temps in the low seventies, I was able to collapse all the other weak hives down to one brood box and make a couple of splits from the strongest hives. I was soon surprised to see the sun disappearing below the tree line. I had two hives to go, but with daylight fading and temperatures dropping I resorted to simply putting another brood box on the mean hive (yes, I’d left them to last) and trusting that the other hive still had plenty of space. All in all, it was a productive work day and I just hope the splits survive the cooler temperatures this week.
The English hive is also no longer leaning — the bottom board had actually slipped off the stand, so I did have to tear it all the way down. One of the video bloggers we follow puts a queen excluder above the first brood box with the rationale that the brood will hatch in time to free up cells for the queen to lay more eggs. That wouldn’t work with my hive as the queen had most of the two deeps and two mediums full of brood! That’s our top producing and gentlest hive. If I’d had more time, I could have made two splits out of it instead of just one, but I only had one NUC with me up at the garden.
We hope we can make it back to the farm next weekend as the swarm risk remains for at least two hives. Hubby has been sidelined with a muscle sprain, so we’ll have to see how he’s doing by Friday. I may have to make another trip on my own. It was a beautiful drive back, and the dog no longer gets car sick, so all in all it was a great weekend.