Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catching Our Bees As They Swarm

This past month both of our bee hives decided to swarm and I just happened to notice both times and was able to catch them.  The first time I was prepared and had a box ready, we hadn't really expected our own bees to swarm but had hoped to catch a swarm from my mothers wild hive or my sisters wild hive.  The second time they swarmed I wasn't so prepared.  Once again Larry wasn't home to help me and I had to improvise

The swarm landed on my newly planted apple tree and I thought I was going to need to cut the little tree down to catch the swarm, crazy I know.  I just hate to miss a swarm of bees especially when they came from my hive.  Decided it would probably be best to just bend the tree over some and give it a good shake into a cardboard box.

I shook them into the box and they stayed, which means I got the queen.  At least I didn't cut the tree down.  It seems that the bees swarm about the first two weeks of May in our area, last year at this time we caught our first swarm of bees.
When Larry arrived home we very quickly put together a bee box that we had ordered a few months back.  It's really best to be prepared for your bees, have your boxes put together and painted but we fly by the seat of our pants around this farm.  You can order your bee boxes fully assembled or in pieces.  They're pretty easy to assemble and a little less expensive that way.

 Just put your dove tailed corners together.

Use a hammer to make them fit good and tight.

You'll need to put a couple of screws on each side to hold them together.

You can purchase the frames fully assembled or assemble yourself, we ordered them assembled this time.

 No time for a paint job but ready for the bees to go into the box.  Guess we'll paint it at a later time.  Bees won't wait on you.

In they go.

We put the frames in and now we have another hive.  We very quickly went from having two hives to having four.  I'm now in the process of studying up on how to prevent them from swarming next year.  Looks like it involves moving a few brood frames up and empty frames down into the brood chamber.  Sounds like this needs to be done very early in the spring before the maple trees begin to bloom.  I still have a lot of learning to do.  In spite of my lack of knowledge of bee keeping my bees seem to thrive on there own.  It's fun to learn as we go.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring On The Farm - Hatching Chicks And Catching Swarms

Spring is in the air and busy farm life begins once again as most of you are probably experiencing also.  Not that it ever really stops around here but it does slow a bit in the winter.  Now that we are seeing warmer weather, chick hatching is in full swing and shipping has begun.  Some of our larger breeds of birds are still slow on fertility but that should pick up soon.  So if your have an order placed for a beautiful Coronation Sussex, Jubilee or Black Orpington, just be patient, it takes them a while to get going in the spring.  They will be worth the wait!

 With the purchase of a new incubator we're now able to hatch a few more eggs, I guess that's a few.  Don't you wonder how they keep from rolling out of the trays.  Every Monday night eggs go into the incubator so that we have a hatch every Monday night and ship every Tuesday.  To all of you wonderful customers out there waiting on your little fluffy butts we're hatching them out just as fast as we can.

With warmer weather and egg production on the rise this slithering beauty is looking for a free meal.    I love this picture, no I did not kill the snake.  I picked it up and took it to Larry, who was not thrilled with the idea I was bringing him a snake.

One of our biggest projects on the farm from spring to late fall is growing up young pullets.  If your waiting on a pullet order, we've not forgotten about you, it just takes time for these pretty birds to get to the age that we can sex them.  Once they get to that age half of them are roosters, so the complicated process begins again.  

It's also that time when we need to put the honey supers on the bee hives.  A honey supper is the small box on top.  The brood chamber is the bottom box,  The box in the middle is honey for the bees to live on during the winter.   Once they fill the top supper more will be added.  This hive produced two gallons of honey last year and it was their first year.  I expect they will produce much more this year.

We've set up two boxes in strategic locations to catch swarms.  This box is in my parents yard, they
have a hive in a tree that we caught a swarm from last year.  Le Charm has been added to the box to attract the bees.  As you can see my father is a great help to Larry, just holler if you need help Larry! 

My Son in law does the mowing for me every week, two weeks ago while mowing he was stung by our bees, so when he showed up last week he was a bit nervous about mowing.  I told him, it's a cool morning I doubt they are very active yet.   He looked out the window and said they look pretty active to me. The air was thick with bees all around the hive.  I thought to myself, this is not normal, it never looks like this.  Finally It came to me what was happening, they're swarming.  It figures the bees would swarm on a day Larry wasn't here to help.  So I told my son is law, Adam you've got to help me.  Since he was stung in the face last week he wasn't to sure about this. There's always something happening here on the farm and if you show up you just might be made to participate. 

We grabbed our extra bee box and headed for the swarm, with Adam saying I can't believe I'm walking through a swarm of bees, I said, shut up man and come on.  Luckily Larry's bee suit fit him just fine.  We really didn't need the suits, it just makes you feel better with them on.

The swarm only moved a few feet from the hive which is normal, they sit and wait as scout bees search for a new home.
I held the branch while Adam cut it down. 

After the branch was cut from the tree, I took the mass of bees over to the box, gave the branch a good hard knock on the edge of the box and they fell in.  Now we just hope the queen fell into the box along with the mass.

There was a few bees remaining on the branch, I sat the branch down and the bee walked into the box.  This tells me the queen is in the hive.

I place the frames and a feeder full of sugar water in the hive and put on the inner cover.

The bees instantly gather at the inner cover hole and begin fanning rapidly.  Only the worker bees do this, they are sending out a pheromone scent to guide any lost bees into the hive.  
Adam mowed the yard that day for me suited up in bee attire, wish I would have snapped a picture of that.  Thanks for all your help Adam, your a good sport.

Late that evening after dark we closed off the hive entrance, the next morning we moved the hive to the hive stand, opened the hive entrance and it was business as usual for the bees.
I have a question for you experienced bee keepers.  How do we keep the bees from wanting to split and swarm each year?  We thought they had plenty of room when we inspected them early this spring.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Have a Great Day!