Friday, March 13, 2009


I captured the first swarm of the year that I have heard of happening.  My feelers are out in as many places as I could put them to notify people that I wanted a swarm.  The hive that produced the first swarm is in the perfect location to collect warmth against a stone wall in a well protected back yard.  They were very docile because the swarm was only a couple of hours old and full of honey, warm, and with no hive to protect.  Having landed on a loquat branch about 3 feet off the ground it was a simple procedure to capture them just by clipping enough leaves off the branch until they had all dropped into the hive sitting on a table below them.  The hive had seven foundations (this allowed room for the leaf drop and bees) in it that had been used by a previous colony so once they were in they had no desire to flee and set up pheromone producing bees immediately to signal all their bees that a home had been found.  It was the first time I had collected a hive so I was glad it was a very fresh swarm (a wet swarm) and everything fell into place so easily.  

It was my first time to collect a swarm but I came prepared with two sizes of ladder, loppers, rope, toothpaste, plastic card, cell phone, and all the clothing that a rational, well-read person would wear (all white, baggy, sealed at wrists/ankles) with rubber banding at ankles/wrists and a bee hat.  The reception box was roped shut and the entry blocked once the bees were inside for safe transportation.  Looked like I knew what I was doing, anyway.  It was fun. The main things to remember are to have a calm demeanor and know what you are going to do next no matter which way the situation progresses.  (Running away screaming is not one of them.)  

"What happens if..."  This should be going through your head at each point of possible divergence in probable activity.  Choke points...

Rain total to date:  17.5 inches.  Average rainfall is about 30 inches.  Official rain season ends June 30.  Usual rain season is from early October to the end of March.


parispirate said...

Good Job , Bob !!!

Boomer said...

Fascinating. Have you kept bees before? I've been wondering if the "empty hive" syndrome happens to people who keep bees in their backyard, or mainly to the pro's who truck their hives all over heck and gone.

Bob Mount said...

Boomer, see the August 21 blog entries for my first up-close-and-personal bee experience in video. Others are scattered throughout the blog but that may be the best entry for visuals.

Bees can leave a hive for a variety of reasons. Personally, I lost a hive due to raiding by another hive. CCD, colony collapse disorder, can be caused by low-protein pollens (blueberry, sunflower as examples) being the only food source available coincident with CCD. Causation? The thought is that poor nutrition weakens the bee immune system. Then the Nosema fungus (asian) and the IAPV, Israeli acute paralysis virus have a much easier time infecting a colony. The Varroa mite may be the vector for the virus. This progression from debilitating to fatal infestations being based upon a poor diet makes sense but is, so far, educated conjecture.

To answer your question: The backyard beekeeper has the opportunity to more closely manage a hive, assuming that person is knowledgable enough, than a commercial opperation. That said, a little inattention or lack of knowledge goes a long way in having your bees leave your yard for good. I speak from experience, unfortunately.