Once we arrived the homeowner insisted that there must be more bees in the side soffit, and said that this is initially where she saw the swarm trying to move in. We started by taking the back side soffit off again and inspected that area. Although there were no bees there, I could now see bees on the other side of the wooden rafter through a very small hole in it. That’s when I realized that what we previously vacuumed, was nothing more than a combination of bearding bees and congested bees trying to get through the very small hole in the wood to their colony on the other side.
After I realized this we came up with a new game plan to drop the bottom piece of wood on the side soffit which would expose the entire side cavity. In turn, I new it would expose exactly what part of the cavity they were in. Once opened, we found the colony in the top right corner of the side soffit, directly on the opposite side of the small hole in the rafter. It appeared that the piece of insulation that was once there had fallen to the bottom, so guess where the colony started drawing comb? They had quickly built five to six fresh new comb pieces, most of which already had eggs, larvae, pollen, and nectar in them. How quickly a swarm can build and fill combs of honey depends a lot on the initial size of the swarm that moved into the cavity. This swarm was obviously fairly large because it took them no time at all. Honey comb that has just been drawn is white and very fragile. It is a task to not have them fall apart when removing or sag when you rubber band them to a frame. However, we did the best we could relocating them from the soffit to the nucleus box without much damage to the comb and bees. Once we removed all the comb we vacuumed all the remaining bees and put them in the box with their comb. The next morning I added this nucleus box to the mass of bees we had previously vacuumed. I am certain they were happy to see the rest of their family.
Before we left Carla’s, Jesus stuffed the missing insulation into the cavity where it had fallen and the bees began their colony. He also added a little extra insulation to the bottom of the cavity. Afterwards we put everything back together and sealed any wooden parts that were susceptible to bees reentering.]]>
After she called several people to help her remedy the situation to no avail, she contacted me. The colony was somewhat elusive to identify where in the structure they called home. It took us several hours to find this out. After checking the inside framing of the tower, the outer soffits, and the walls we drilled a 3/8 inch hole into the mortar on one the protruded pillars. There we struck liquid gold and some bees came out to greet us. Once establishing how far down the pillar they went we began disassembling it. As this happened it became apparent that the crumbled mortar on the cross beam led the colony right into the pillar. After exposing the entire colony I like to put a catch bag at the bottom of the colony. That way any bees, honey, or comb that falls down before I have my hands on it is secure from following down to the bottom of the pillar out of reach.
This removal took many more hours than I had anticipated. This was largely due to the initial difficulty in locating the bees, size of the colony, and its distance from the ground. I learned that working from a roof is not fun and I have never been a big fan of heights anyway. However, we did finally get this colony relocated to the apiary in Elbert, CO.]]>
Good News for the Compost Crew! We did well in vacuuming the queen without injuring her because she has been cranking out some eggs, and the population has expanded to three deep nucleus boxes.]]>
After meeting the homeowners and doing some preliminary work it was discovered that the colony set up there new home in one of their several soffit choices. One of the larger holes in the soffit and much further from the hive’s location was created by an animal previously who was trying to house itself in the soffit. The other hole which was the colony’s main entrance was just enough space for two bees two enter/exit at a time. Which is why I suppose this colony used both holes, even though the larger hole was at least five feet away from where there colony was.
We were determined to try to get the plywood under the soffit off in one piece, but one of the ends was further away than we could safely reach from the porch. Ryan Brown came up with an interesting, but extremely dangerous idea of strapping the extension ladder to the tree and then using a plank across the ladder and porch ledge to access the outer side of the soffit. I would have never thought of this, mainly because the danger level of this would have blocked the idea out of my mind. However, it worked very well and he safely returned to the ground after we got the plywood off in one piece. Once the colony was exposed we had the luxury of working on a ladder from the porch to reach and relocate the colony. This was still somewhat difficult because we had to track up and down the ladder with combs of bees. After removing the colony and relocating them to their new hive body we began cleaning up all of our work areas.
The homeowners of the Calle Corvo Crew decided that they could put everything back together, and fill and seal the cavity. Therefore, we discussed the specifics of this and of course fixing and sealing the colonies original entrances/exits. Overall, as the first removal of the Spring of 2017, I think it went extremely well.
Again, this year, rather than trying to keep them warm, I put more emphasis and energy on making sure the hives were healthy and had plenty of honey stores going into Winter.
Therefore, the only hives I insulated were the nucleus colonies and colonies that occupied only one or two deeps. I felt that these bee populations would benefit from having the extra R-Value created by the one inch foam insulation on the back and sides of their boxes. In addition, all of our hives have an insulated top cover on them year round. In the Winter this keeps condensation from dripping down onto the Winter Cluster.
The smallest nucleus colonies this Winter are two deeps and several of them are three and four deeps. Which in reality makes the larger ones more like full size hives. I will closely monitor there weight as Winter progresses and exchange any of their empty frames with full frames of honey before Spring. I don’t want them to starve!
We went into this Winter with only forty-seven colonies, and four have perished since then. Three of the four had a heavier mite load than the bees could manage, and the fourth literally had honey/nectar oozing from the entrance. This was the first time I had ever seen this, and this too may have had something to do with a mite overload prior to the oozing. I will know more about there demise once I do an autopsy on the hive, which is currently just screened off to keep the hives around it from robbing it dry. We came closer to reaching last year’s goal of increasing our hive numbers to fifty. However, again this year it eluded us, but we came much closer than the previous year. I think we need to increase the hive count goal to more than fifty this year since we are so close to this monumental goal.
Going into this winter our hive numbers were higher than last years, but still slightly off our goal. Since we did not hit our hive count goal from last year, I will increase it to fifty-five. However, this year I am certain we will meet or surpass fifty-five hives by focusing on more increases and holding on to more of our overwintered nucleus colonies. We will only sell one more before they will be sold out until next April 2018. However, we will still have several Spring nucleus colonies available.
We also filled the new apiary in the Broadmoor area and had our first harvest from some of the colonies there this Summer. The nectar flow from this apiary was pretty robust even with a mid summer drought of nectar. In addition, we obtained a new out yard in Fountain which looks promising. This is also the out yard where I had my first swarm refuse to enter the pink Langstroth box I provided for them. At first I thought maybe they didn’t like pink;), so I offered them a white set up, but they refused that box also and went back to collect on the outside of the original pink Langstroth box I first offered. The next day they were still hanging out on the outside of the box, and I didn’t have time to make sure they stayed in another setup, so I gave them to a friend. After using my bee vacuum to collect them and transport them to my friend’s house, I noticed all of the little wax particles they began to draw on the outside of the box (see picture). He too had a difficult time anchoring them, so that made me feel a little better.
Once Spring arrives, I will be updating how particular hives are doing and giving an update on hive numbers and total Winter losses. Hopefully, our Winter losses will be the same or less than last years, which was around 12 percent.]]>
As Fall approached the colony began to propolize the entrance to the barrel. My plan was to modify a cork in the entrance hole for the Winter and add a “roof” over the entrance. The bees beat me to my plan and almost completely shut off the entrance for Winter, but I still added the “roof” to keep out blowing snow and rain. If the colony survives their first Winter, I will have to make some discussions on what to do next with them. I love the ideal of them living in the barrel and having their drone genetics propagate other treatment free colonies. Of course, if I did this, I would never be able to harvest honey from the barrel (which I am okay with), but eventually the colony would fill the entire barrel of comb. When this happens a swarm is almost guaranteed. I am okay with this too, because the apiary has multiple swarm traps in the trees, and hopefully the swarm would be enticed into entering one of them. However, I will have to wait to see what Spring brings.]]>
The homeowners of this crew had known they had honey bees living in their structure for several years. I had been to their home previously, several years back, to discuss their situation. Back then one of the dilemmas was the height of the structure. We discussed setting up scaffolding or renting a boom lift.
This year we went further into the process of relocating the colony. We identified exactly where they were in the structure. Unfortunately, the colony was so deep into the interior, that we decided it would be way easier to remove them from the inside.
This is usually a hard sell for most homeowners. But, in my experience, always more economical. In most cases, its just more cost effective to patch a sheetrock wall (or roof in this case) than repair an exterior wall. One does have to set up a containment area for inside removals. But, even then, there is always an occasional bee or two that makes their way out of the containment area. This usually happens when we are traveling in and out of that area. I believe the thought and visualization of hundreds of bees flying in the room beyond the containment area, is what usually frightens most homeowners. However, this is never the case, unless the whole containment area were to fall down while we were relocating the bees. This has never happened!
On the day of the relocation, the homeowners had the containment area already set up. The sheetrock had a preliminary cut based upon the area the infrared-thermal camera identified the colony to be in. Once we removed the sheetrock and insulation, we were greeted by a few defensive bees. It was not surprising to see that the colony had utilized the entire cavity by building comb throughout. What was surprising to me, was how low on honey stores they were, for this time of the year, and the small amount of clustering bees. It seemed that there was a lot of built comb that was empty and not being used at the time. According to the homeowners, this colony swarmed earlier this season and that would have contributed to their current status.
When it was all said and done, Three Graces Crew only consisted of about three frames of bees, pollen, eggs, larvae, and two frames of honey. Due to removing them so late in the season, there size, and there lack of honey stores, it is unlikely they will have enough time to regroup and survive there first managed Winter. However, I shall spend the extra time and resources to help them out as much as possible along the way. This will probably include insulating the sides of there hive body. In the managed bee world, we call this babying them.
Roofers, who were replacing the roof, notified the homeowner that she had a colony of honey bees living under her protruded eave. Due to there being a glass green house under the eave, and a minimal roof line next to this, it was decided that the only way to reroof that area, and relocate the colony, was to rent a boom lift.
Upon arriving, the lift was already setup and ready for use. We went up and attempted to find where, in the protruded eave, the colony was located. We used a bore scope and drilled additional small holes for it to fit through. After discovering that the colony appeared to be further in the eave, than we could see with the bore scope, one of the roofers (Wayne), went up on the lift and began forking the shingles off. Once the majority of the old shingles and black tar paper were off, we pealed back the plywood to find the colony.
What a surprise it was! Instead of building their colony horizontally, in the open cavity, they choose to build there colony vertically, in one of the smallest openings of the cavity. The cavity’s water vapor seal prevented the colony from going any deeper into the cavity. However, right before the seal, at least one side of the framing on one of the corner windows was empty (no insulation). Guess where the colony decided to build?
In the end, the homeowner decided their was nothing she could do to save the colony. Short of cutting into the stucco, between two of the windows where the colony was located, there was no access. This would have been the only option because of the framing of the windows and an interior removal would not have given us access to the colony.
Therefore, we removed what little comb, honey, and bees we could reach from atop of the colony. We left two suits for Wayne and his crew to address the rest of the colony and reroof that area. A sad day for all of us.]]>
These ladies found a split in the cedar paneling leading into a pillar. This particular panel also had knots holes which the colony began to use as entrances and exits.
The Scarlet Drive Crew scouted this pillar and moved in around May of this year. They were in the pillar for approximately six weeks before we began relocating them. As you can see, it didn’t take them long to set up their multiple layer colony.
How quickly a honey bee colony can fill a cavity of wax, brood, nectar, and honey has several variables. One of which is the size of the initial swarm moving into the cavity. Obviously, the more bees that initially swarm into the cavity, the quicker they can work together to begin building wax cells and foraging. Another variable is the amount of nectar and pollen they can collect. The more it is available, the quicker the colony can expand.
This colony had plenty of nectar available, based upon the amount that was in their cells. Perhaps, one of the biggest variables is whether the queen has been successfully mated, or not, when the colony swarms into the cavity. If she has been mated prior to the swarm moving into the cavity, she could be laying eggs as early as that day. If she has not been mated, it will be an additional seven or so days before she lays her first egg.
Regardless, it is always a swarms first order of business to begin building hexagonal wax cells to have a place for the queen to lay eggs. And, a place to store pollen and nectar. These cells start off as white, when they are first produced. Over time, the cells turn to yellow, golden brown, dark brown, and eventually black from multiple uses. As you can see, this colony’s comb was mostly white (its most delicate state) and yellow.
The Scarlet Drive Crew was moved to a new out-yard in Fountain. There, they have been joined with seven other hives. They have managed to fill an additional two hive bodies and things are looking good for them going into Winter. However, the true test will be if they come out of Spring healthy and anxious to produce a honey crop.]]>