Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bees in Arizona

Mark's eldest son, Robert, and his lovely girlfriend Danielle (Hi! We miss you!) went hiking in the desert recently.

 Pollinators and other winged creatures are taking flight as spring transforms the earth and blue skies beckon.  Check out those contrails! It was a beautiful day for a flight.

Robert has a fascination with all things crittery, and the Lewis family loves to tell stories about him and his adventures.  "I'd come home and if there was a box with a rock and a piece of paper on it, I knew not to get in it," Mark says.  "Usually there would be some kind of snake or lizard . . . he was always bringing home something from the woods or river."  Feral piglets. Poisonous snakes. No big deal. Robert is also a great photographer.

One of my favorite pictures of Robert was taken when he was about 10 and is wearing beekeeping gear.  He's watching a honey bee crawl on his gloved hand and looks so happy.  I'm excited that he's interested in pursuing a degree in entomology here at Mississippi State so we'll have our very own bee expert in the family. In the meantime, we have to settle for great photos of bees who will make some delicious sage honey.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Got Bees? What To Do When You Find a Swarm!

Text from Mark: Fixing to attempt a swarm catch.

Text back: Wish I could go with you! Can Andrew take photos?

He called.  "Andrew is in town, running errands."

Keri: "Where are you headed?  Who called? How exciting!"

Mark:  "They're probably our bees.  I'm going to Mel's."  (Our neighbor who owns a tomato farm down the road.)

Keri: "Oh." (Imagine a balloon deflating.)

Bees swarm.  It's a fact of life.  The big build-up in population results in the rearing of new queens, one of which will triumph over the others.  The original queen bee will be prepared by the workers for leaving (in a rigorous process explained in fascinating detail in Honeybee Democracy).  Then the "mother" of the usurper will swarm away with thousands of worker bees, leaving the hive to her offspring.

So, what do you do if you find a swarm of bees hanging around your home or yard?  Please don't call an exterminator!

Options for Dealing with Swarms
  • Call a local beekeeper.  If you're using local honey (like you know you should!), call your honey provider!
  • You can find information online at Honey Run Apiaries using your zip code. (I just submitted our info.)
  • Call your local County Extension office, NRCS office, co-op, or farm supply store. They usually have a list of local beekeepers interested in catching swarms.
  • If you live in Southern California, you can call the Backwards Beekeepers Bee Rescue hotline: (213) 373-1104.
  • Leave them alone and let them relocate on their own.  They know what they're doing, and given time will move on.  It just depends on their location and your level of tolerance.
If you live in the Golden Triangle region of MS and need a bee swarm removed, call Mark at 662.418.4422!

Advice on Preventing Swarms from Taking Up Residence in Your Walls
If you are a homeowner, be sure to seal up any small holes in the exterior of your home as well as any outbuildings you have.  Bees love to find sheds, barns, old buildings, etc. and build comb in the spaces between the frames and sheet rock.  This is a good time of year to do some home maintenance and avoid having bees take up residence in your walls.  Some beekeepers will do "cut outs," meaning they will remove whatever walls are necessary and take out the bees, comb, etc.  This is messy, time consuming, and may require the payment of a fee, but is much better than killing the bees, leaving the mess in the walls for mice and other bugs to try to eat, etc.

Update on Today's Swarm:

Mark: "I've got the bees and we're headed to the Barhams'.  They weren't in a spot I could shake them off into the box, but I'm pretty determined now to get some swarm catching boxes."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Expansion as Bee Population Explodes

Hive 6 with its newly added, painted deep super.
On Friday, Mark decided to check the bees without me.
Hive 1 -- see how many bees were in the air?

After the chaotic addition of supers due to the population explosion and discovery of brood built between the boxes, he called me.  I rushed home from work, took notes on the three remaining hives, and snapped pictures. 
Brood built in the wrong place = dead baby bees. Gross.

In short, he added a deep and medium super to hives 1, 5, & 6.  Moved a feeder from 5 to 2.  We'll add deeps to the others this week. 

Empty brace comb = wasted effort for the bees, more wax for candles.

Empty supercedure cell = possibility they requeened themselves.

Hive 5 needs re-leveling after the flood!

Three expanded hives, with some lost bees on the back of Hive 1.
When we checked the hives Saturday, the difference in temperament was amazing: the formerly aggressive hives had settled noticeably and were making use of their new space. What's fascinating is that in some hives, they haven't filled all of the frames with wax/comb, yet they'll build brace comb on the tops and bottoms of frames where they congregate.  Mark said, "I'm sure glad I have those back saver bee stands," as working in those conditions without any help was a bit of a challenge. Maybe next time he'll wait for me!