Honeybees and Return of Cold Weather

Here it is the end of April, one week cold & wet, next week hot and short sleeves. Imagine if you can how this can mess with nature. Our hive that came in wild last summer has thrived well through the winter and as soon as the dandelions bloomed, they had their first swarm.

It was quite a large swarm and didn’t hang around very long. We wouldn’t have been able to catch it due to the landing in a large tree.

This week we had a 70-degree day, dandelions were blooming again, and we had another swarm. Apparently, the queen came out a little too soon and wasn’t able to fly well enough to swarm off and her swarm landed on the new hay tedder in front of the hive.

Unexpected swarm loves the new farm equipment. The brown spot on the ground is thousands of honeybees.
Mr. Caldwell suited up and put the swarm box in front of the bees. First, he set a flat piece of board in the grass in front of the bees and had the swarm box sitting at one end of the board.
From here you can tell the swarm trap was not near large enough to house all those bees. The hole to enter the hive was about the size of a nickle and Eddie decided to do something different.
Knowing the swarm trap wasn’t going to work he got busy cleaning up an old hive and placing new comb inside for them to have the amount of room they desperately needed.
He picked up the swarm trap and held it over the open hive body and tapped it hard into the hive. All of the bees on the front of the trap dropped as a group into the hive. He then placed the hive body on the edge of the board along with a thin strip for the bees to use as a step into the hive and not go under the hive.
Those bees started marching into that hive as quickly as they could. It took almost two hours. The strips on top of the hive were used to stop the honeybees from going under the hive box. Wednesday was a very busy day, and we now have a new hive that seems to be staying in their new home.

On Saturday we had a repeat of Wednesday but this time something went very wrong. The bees swarmed and apparently something happened to this new queen. The swarmed landed about six feet from the last but was widely scattered in the grass. They seemed lost and not able to find the queen. We watched for about an hour and the workers all went back in the hive. Eddie said that being a young queen her wings might not have been developed well enough to fly any distance or the queen left in the older hive sometimes will kill the new queen to keep her workers with her. I can believe this may have happened since the hive had just swarmed two days before.

This was a good thing because we are out of hives. The rainy weather and the cooler temps we hope will prevent another swarm. It’s crazy that they raised another queen so fast, and Eddie is thinking there may be more queen’s ready to hatch. We will see!!!

This is where he smoked the bees out of the grass onto the board with the hive on Wednesday.

Cooler weather coming this week so stay warm and stay busy!!!

Honeybee Swarm Traps

Honey Bee Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

The last three years we have lost our honeybees in the spring when the weather was warm for a couple weeks and then became below freezing shortly after. The bees all died in the hive but away from their honey source. There are lots of reasons this can happen but that’s for the experts to say, not me. This post will be about what I have learned.

Our hive of 2022 came from a wild swarm that occurred after the weather warmed. They have so far survived and actually swarmed yesterday which was a total surprise.

Our son lost his hive this spring just like we did the past three years. He has become a real bee/honey enthusiast. After some research, rather than buy new bees which are very expensive (colony of honeybees is normally sold by farmers for well over $125) he decided to make some honeybee swarm traps for himself and for us.

Swarm traps made by our son for himself and for our farm.

Honeybee colonies that have had swarming taking place are left with a greatly reduced population of honeybees. Usually, the swarm leaves with 60-70% of the adult bees in the parent colony. Since we personally had a swarm yesterday, I am concerned that this reduction of the colony and the crazy weather may cause the loss of our hive even now.

It was quite a large swarm and didn’t hang around very long.

We had two swarm traps hung but I don’t think they would have held this swarm and the traps may be hung to low. The swarm trap should be up a month before the swarm season when dandelion begins blooming. Our yard around the hives is full of dandelions and the honeybees are all over them and the location of the trap should be around 100 yards away from the hives. The swarm trap should be placed 10 feet off of the ground, according to the research I did after we lost the swarm. The swarm trap should face away from winds and towards the north so it can get enough sunlight in the morning.

The tree they swarmed to was well above 10 feet and over the bee house. They may have been there 30 minutes before they left to their new home. I missed the departure!!!

We will be moving the traps we now have up and adding more lemongrass oil. To use lemongrass oil, soak a cotton swab in it and dab the entryway with it. Then leave the cotton swab inside the trap. I just put a few drops at the entryway of the trap initially but know better now.

This box was about 15 yards from the bee house and only six feet off the ground. We put it there because in the past swarms have left the hives and went in the top of the tree.
This box is at the end of the bee house on our fencing shed and only five feet off the ground and does not get the morning sun.
The front of the hive was busy but not nearly as many bees on the front of the hive.

When we finally catch a swarm, the first thing we need to make sure that the swarm doesn’t leave and let them settle. If we start inspecting them as soon as we catch them or try to move their location immediately, they will try to leave.
We need to make them feel at home, as though it was their idea to choose this trap. Once all of the scout bees come back and the swarm is nicely contained, then carefully and gently move it to a hive we have ready and install the bees in their new home.

%d bloggers like this: