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Summer of Swarms

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Psalms from the Hive, by Jeannie Saum

Bees get crowded in summer days

And send out foragers looking for ways

To direct the colony to a new home.

They load their bodies with pollen  and honey

Queen and half the bees make a run for the money

Swarming off into the sky.

 

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical

We’re not sure why the bees seem to be swarming more this summer, but it is really keeping us busy.  We get one to three calls a week from people who need help with a bee swarm in their

yard, or a sudden infestation of bees in some part of their house.  My husband Steve, and his side-kick, our son Nate, have become the BEEpothecary BEE Wranglers of Groveport and SE Columbus!

Steve

Nate

Why do they do it? Free bees!  When they go out to capture swarms or clear out bees from someone’s wall or garage or eaves, they bring back the bees and add them to a hive body in our bee apiary, and we have a new hive!  When a package of bees from the south costs $95, and a small starter nucleus hive costs $125, catching swarms is a great cost saving way to increase our hive numbers!  More bees means more honey, propolis, pollen and beeswax!

Steve getting behind a gutter to find the hive.

Swarm high up in our tree. We got this one!

Why do bee hives swarm?  It is a natural tendency of bee colonies. In a natural hive in a tree or log, the bee colony will swarm whenever it runs out of room.  This is the way bees increase their numbers and their colonies in nature.  The queen bee has been kept alive all winter by her worker females creating heat by shivering their bodies in a cluster around her.  In the spring when the weather warms up, the queen starts laying eggs again and the worker bees begin collecting pollen and nectar.  As the bee population in the hive increases, and more pollen and nectar are brought in, they start running out of room in the hive.  If a beekeeper isn’t inspecting their managed hives soon enough, and adding boxes with more space, the hive will do what it is ingrained to do – swarm.

Pheromones given off by the bees direct the colony to start making swarm cells for new queens. These chemical

This swarm flew right out of the nuc box and disappeared! Bummer!

signals cause the scout bees to go out to find a new home and the forager bees to load up their bodies with pollen and honey.  Then, one day the queen and half the bees, loaded down with food, leave the hive, create a big tornado like swirl of bees in the air, and eventually land in a tree or bush, usually fairly close at first.  They rest there, until the scout bees show them where to go next.  This is not good for the beekeeper because it means you have lost half the bees in that hive.  Fewer bees mean less honey, pollen and propolis!

If you’re lucky, you see the swarm resting on a tree or busy in your yard, and can go out and capture your own swarm and put them in a new hive set up. But often, they fly away and end up in someone else’s yard, tree or house!

Nate cutting a limb with a swarm

When Steve and Nate go out swarm catching this is how they do it.  If the swarm is in a tree or bush, it’s easy – as long as it is not too high up!  All they have to do is cut the limb and shake, or just bump the limb and shake it over a “nuc box”.  This is a small cardboard box that holds 5 frames of beeswax comb for a nucleus hiv

Sometimes, the queen somehow hangs onto the limb, while the other bees fall off and into the box.  When this happens, the bees in the box won’t stay.  They fly right back up to the queen on the  limb!  So sometimes the bumping of the limb as to be done a few times, or a bee brush used gently to try to get all  the bees and the queen off the limb and into the box.  Once they get the queen in the box, all the other bees will follow her in.  They look like a miniature army marching off to war, right into the box.

 

 

If the bees have found a little tiny hole to go through to get into the eaves or the wall of someones house, it becomes a more difficult job and usually there is a charge involved for doing the

Loose bricks in historic home – an invitation for bees to build a nest!

extraction.  This usually requires a ladder, tools and the removal of part of the house – fascia board,

Bee hive in the wall behind the bricks.

gutter, soffit or sometimes even cutting out wallboard inside the house.  And if the bees are inside the house, they have already started building beeswax comb and bringing in pollen and nectar. The queen is already laying eggs. So all this must be cut out.  A lot of work, but good for us, because Steve and Nate bring home not just the queen and the bees, but also the new comb and larvae already laid.  This goes into a new hive set up in our apiary.  We rubber band the  oddly shaped beeswax comb into the wooden frames in the hive box.

Most exterminators these days don’t want to mess with extracting bees.  First of all, they know the bees are important and need to be saved, not exterminated.  But secondly, killing the bees is only part of the job.  If you don’t remove the wax comb full of nectar and pollen and larvae, it will decay, and smell and eventually

Bee hive behind fascia board and gutter.

seep through the wall board into the house!  Exterminators don’t want to

Nate getting a bee hive way up high behind gutter.

deal with that!

So, if you see a swarm, or you end up with an infestation in your home, don’t hesitate to call the BEEpothecary BEE Wranglers! 614-450-2339.

 

 

 

 

 

Steve digging out another fascia board infestation.

Getting the bees in the nuc box.

Making sure he’s got them all.

 

 

Psalm 104:

27 All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—

32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

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Swarm!

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Psalms from the Hive

by Jeannie Saum

If you don’t watch them

Pay attention to signs

They’ll get crowded

And head for the pines!

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea.

the swarm in the hazelnut tree
the swarm in the hazelnut tree

And that is just what they did! Only it wasn’t the pines, it was the hazelnut trees!  One day, while Steve was out mowing the front yard around the hives, he made a second pass beside the row of hazelnuts trees and saw something that wasn’t there 5 minutes ago – a huge cluster of bees hanging from a branch about 7 feet up in the air.  He ran in to get me and anyone else in the house who would come out to see.  We all trooped out to stand around and look up at it and wonder what to do.  Steve was convinced that as fast as it had formed, it had to have come from one of our hives – most likely the 8 frame that had made it through the winter.  Truth be told, we still hadn’t established a routine schedule of inspection and had been kind of lax.  I’m not sure we would have even know the signs of swarming at that point.  There’s just so much to learn and remember.

Steve was all excited and pumped up about capturing this swarm.  He realized it would mean another hive to add to the apiary!  But how to do it?  Sure, we had read about it briefly in books, but it wasn’t one of those details we’d remembered all about.  Don’t know it ’til ya need it!  So back  into the house we trooped, to look it up on the internet!

After reading some how-tos and watching a few You-Tube videos, we started gathering supplies – an extra hive box a make shift bottom and top board (since we didn’t have a 5th set yet) a cardboard box, a sheet, and a ladder. And of course, we called our partners in crime, the Dotsons, and they rushed over to share in the excitement!  Then out we trooped, again.

Steve was going to try the process we had learned about online.  He climbed the ladder with the cardboard box and I spread the sheet on the ground in front  of the hive box and sandwiched one edge of it between the bottom board and hive box, making a wide sheet-ramp.  We didn’t yet have a bee brush, so Steve used his gloved hand and tried to brush as many bees as he could, off the swarm and into the box.  They didn’t cooperate very well and got MAD.  Steve got about 1/3 of them into the box and gave up.  The swarm was still a ways above Steve’s head, making this more difficult. So, he got down and dumped the box of bees on to the sheet.

bees marching up the sheet to the hive
bees marching up the sheet to the hive

The bees used the sheet-ramp to march up to the hive box and go in.  We didn’t know if Steve had gotten the queen, but theoried that if the worker bees had found this great new home, they would go back and signal to the queen and she would leave the swarm and follow them to the hive.  This theory proved to be in error, because after leaving them alone for an hour, we went back out to find all the bees back up on the swarm in the tree!! Man, you give ’em a beautiful new mansion and they don’t even appreciate it!

On to Plan Two.  The only other choice, we decided, was to cut down the branch the swarm was on , and shake it into the new hive box, much like you do with a package of bees.  The only problem was that the swarm was 7 feet up a tall, thick branch.  So, we had to wait for our son to get home and come down with his chain saw.  This proved to be the trick!

the swarm all settled in their new home
the swarm all settled in their new home

Nate came down about an hour later and with three of us holding onto what proved to be a very heavy branch, he managed to cut through it.  We tapped it several times over the open hive box, and then propped it over the box for a while.  We must have gotten the queen into the box, because this worked! After about an hour, most of the bees were happily in their new home and we had an extra hive!  Pete and Laurie, our techie friends, got it all on video and had it posted on Facebook before we were even done!

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High  will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;  his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,  nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,   nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,  ten thousand at your right hand,   but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes  and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”  and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,  no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you  to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble,  I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life I will satisfy him  and show him my salvation.”