Sunday, April 23, 2017

(Apr 23) Bees! Bees! Bees!

OK, this past couple of weeks has pretty much just been about bees and looking forward to Earthday. We bought a full hive from someone in our bee club. We bought a swarm that someone caught. We caught our own swarm, and now we have 2 more colonies (Nucs) we are buying at the end of this week. Lots of prep time getting the boxes painted, cleaned up and ready for their new occupants. We've also been to several classes this month in prep. My head is swelling with bee knowledge. I look forward to the day that I know what I'm doing, though! We keep coming to conclusions of what we should be doing and then we run it by a seasoned beekeeper only to find out that we're still really green and don't have a clue.

That's alright! It's what this first year is about. We were told early on that if we managed to keep our bees alive for our first year that it was just a bonus. The real goal is to learn. Learn what the bees need. Learn what not to do. Learn what we should be doing and when to do it.

After a great weekend of volunteering at the Tiny House Village at Earth Day Texas, we came out to the Tiny to transfer the swarm we had caught to a permanent box. We were absolutely shocked at how busy they had been. They took over our swarm trap about 30 days ago and got after it. We really shouldn't have left them this long I guess. We made a real mess of trying to transfer the comb to the new box. Some of it was 18" deep but we only had room for 11" deep in the new box. I also wasn't prepared for how soft and pliable it was, literally breaking apart in my hand.

After tearing up most of the comb, we decided to get the rest of the bees in their new hive and just let them get back to doing what they do best. They were pretty upset and my smoker had run out of fuel. I had let Kim wear the full suit and I was only wearing a veil and some gloves. Mistake! Next time, I need at least a full jacket with an integrated veil. I got stung 6-7 times while we were performing the transfer. You just have to work through it and get it finished. I'll be better prepared next time! Count on it!

Here are some photos of us discovering what's in the swarm trap for the 1st time!

Swarm box hanging on the side of a tree at the back of our property for the last month.

Kim, getting ready to open the swarm box

1st hint that it was really full was that she could barely lift the lid it was so heavy!

Yeah, I'd say they's been busy. That's 18" of comb hanging from the lid!

More hanging in the box still

This is a lot of bees!

I'm guessing we had 8-10 pounds of bees along with another 10-12 pounds of comb with brood, honey and pollen. I need to shorten the swarm box so that they can't draw comb that deep. We're also going to use deep frames with no foundation next time instead of top bar frames. That should facilitate them moving to a deep box much easier.

I also got new bottom boards with slide in shelves installed in all of our boxes. I think this was the mistake that caused a swarm we had previously caught to leave again. The box they moved into had a regular screened bottom that let in a lot of light. I'm told they really like it dark when they take over a new location as evidenced by they're obvious appreciation of the swarm trap that only had a small slit cut in one side.

The other thing I added to all of our boxes were trough feeders. These are 1-gallon hanging feeders that go inside of the hive. It lets them better protect the food (sugar water) from other raiding hives as well as allows them to eat throughout the night and continue working. They don't mind the dark and it takes lots of food/fuel for them to produce that much wax. This time of year, they could litterally go through 2 gallons per day per hive. We mix up the syrup at a one-to-one ration (by weight) of water and sugar. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. To that we add 8 pounds of sugar. We've been paying about 50¢ per pound for sugar and are looking for a cheaper source. Combined, our hives could go through well over 100 pounds of sugar per week in feeding season!

Here's a video on YouTube of us transferring them to the new box. It's not pretty!

We'll do another follow-up when we get the 2 Nucs this weekend. Hopefully, they'll go a bit smoother. :)


  1. Linda Sue of Walla Walla WAAugust 19, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    Wow! What a great post and pics! I'm curious about where bees forage out in the forest? What's blooming? Are they more dependent on tree pollen? Where do they find the nectar flow?

    1. Thanks for stopping by!! :) Since the bees travel up to 2-3 miles, there are lots of food sources for them. Our neighborhood is mostly wooded, about 450 acres, but there are many pastures and meadows around our perimeter. I've got this box cleaned out and set back up. Hope to catch another swarm this next spring. :)