Sunday, July 19, 2009

Camping and Capturing.

Camping at Memorial Grove was fantastic. After hiking there in May, we decided to camp there. Three of us arrived Friday around 1:30pm, and the other four were there around six. The site was roomy and we lucked out having neighbors only on one side. There were a lot of wasps there! Happily they were only annoying and not overly aggressive, no one was stung. Plenty of Dark-eyed Oregon Juncos were hopping around the site. The brilliantly colored but slightly harassing Stellar's Jay was also in abundance. We were careful about locking up food, but saw that a raccoon had done some tap dancing on one cutting board, and heard them cruise through the site during the night. The mosquitos were thick! Guess I wasn't careful enough about putting on the insect repellent!

I brought some of our new honey and recently bottled Syrah and Elderberry to share. It's heaven to share fruits from the home and heart with good friends.

Saturday we left the site and headed to Pescadero for beach and tide pool adventures. Loved stretching out to examine the many crabs running around the tide pools. We had a great time there, but it was cold!!! Heading back to the campsite we stopped at Harley Farms to meet the goats, a tiny grey kitten named Smokey, and sample many different goat cheeses. It's a great farm, it makes me happy to know places out there exist. And the cheese - delicious!

Leaving on Sunday Pescadero Creek Road was closed heading back to Hwy 84. We had heard sirens as we were doing a bit of walking around the park prior to leaving. We were directed to turn west instead to Hwy 1. I decided to take Hwy 1 up to Hwy 92 home, and loved the cool and foggy drive. Once I was home I was looking forward to being done unpacking the truck, getting everything put away and sorted, seeing my cat, and getting a shower. Other than that, I just wanted a quiet and lazy Sunday. Everything did get unpacked (ok, I still have dishes to wash), the cat was happy to seem me, the garden was watered, and I got myself cleaned up. But - while watering the garden I noticed the bit of bees that have been hanging out under the inner cover from our honey harvest were still there. I moved the board away, breaking the bunch apart. They buzzed, but didn't really budge. Uh-oh. They were also drawing comb on the fence. Double uh-oh.

I had seen these bees last week and really hoped they were just Urania bees hanging out. I thought they may go back into their hive once the remainder of the honey equipment was put away, so giving them the weekend seemed fair enough.

This afternoon I pulled the inner cover away from the fence and left it resting against the table. I thought they may go back into the hive, but the drawn comb had me worried I had a swarm situation. I was in the house for a few hours when I noticed the air was a bit thick with bees.

My heart absolutely sank. This was not the usual "bee cloud" that surrounds Urania. The air was thick enough with bees that I was actually hesitant to go outside. My big fear / worry was that I was seeing Urania get ready to swarm. And while I'm fine with the idea academically, thinking I was about to see it happen was another matter. However, as I watched during the afternoon, it appeared that I wasn't seeing a swarm leave. It appeared that we had a swarm that had found the house.

My best guess is that scout bees arrived sometime in the last week, found our house to be literally flowing with honey, and decided this was a good place to live. (Admittedly, I'm a little flattered that it appears our hive location is one the bees would naturally choose.)

The mass of bees in the air slowly started to condense down onto the fence, leaving the inner cover bare again. The decision was made to try to capture the swarm. I went through a bit of foot dragging. I'm not sure I want two hives here, despite how productive the area appears. I was feeling tired and wanting to be indulgent and lazy. I wasn't wanting to throw on my bee jacket with how warm it was. wah, wah, wah. :-P

From our beekeeping class, we had learned moving bees into a new house in the evening may help convince them to stay, as they are less likely to fly in the evening. I decided to wait until dusk to suit up.

I took an old bottom board, supported it on the rail of the fence, and put on a honey super with nine frames of drawn comb. The bees had come together in a complete mass by this time, and the Urania bees were mostly in their hive for the night. It may have been pushing my luck a bit - but I left on my cozy lounging pants, tucked them into my ugg boots that I use for camping, and didn't bother with my gloves. I did wear the jacket & veil - bees flying into the face aren't fun.

I then took a dust brush (the herbal bee brushes we normally use are great for moving a couple of bees, but less effective for masses.) and in one motion, pushed the bees off the fence and onto the bottom board. They buzzed, but really didn't react the way that Urania would have done had I done this to them. No bumping, no guard bees flying up to challenge. I'd heard swarms are docile, but seeing really is believing.

They seemed to take to the hive. No more bees remain on the fence, and I saw the bees doing their "come home" mechanism. Workers stick their bums high into the air, and fan their wings to spread Nasonov pheremone out. I was way too freaked out when we put our package into the hive originally to really look for this behavior. No matter what happens with this swarm - watching these bees signal was amazing.

More bees on the fence signaling.

I tore off the wax that the bees had made on the fence. The other little white spots are other areas where the bees were beginning to add more wax. I'm just a bit ! that bees were going to set up house on my fence.

And just to show - yes - I really did this in cotton otter pants, a quick photo of me with the hives.

I've talked with my other bee partners. There's some decisions to make here. M wants a second hive here, but I'm not sure we should. But with how healthy and productive Urania has been, I'm tempted.

Having a second hive either here or next to Terpsichore does mean extra expenses - another Lang stand, another hive, another drive to Woodland. Moving bees isn't just a quick drive operation. We don't know where these bees are from - do they have diseases? mites?

There's a chance we could give the swarm to another bee keeper in the area. (pre-packaged!) The old "A swarm in July is not worth a fly" may not be as true here -- the weather is mild enough that the bees will forage year round. That they have frames with drawn comb cuts back strongly on their work load.

There's also the chance that these bees may vacate tomorrow, but I'm doubting that after seeing how quickly they marched in and signaled.

All these questions and concerns racing through my head, and then I suddenly pause and think, hey! I caught my first swarm!

So is this the future Clio hive, or is this a momentary distraction?

1 comment:

  1. Great photos of your first swarm experience. I have an extra deep now so I'm ready but I haven't collected my first one yet. I have read that if you want them to stay, give them babies to take care of - you could take a frame from your other hive and shake off the bees and give it to them.