• April 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.05.01 | Category: Newsletter | Tags:

    It’s been a very busy month. As of our last meeting, I was beginning to wonder if we were going
    to have a swarm season this year. At that time, I had only seen a couple of swarms. In past
    years, March 1st usually begins my swarm season. Well, not to worry! Beginning a couple of
    weeks ago, I have averaged more than one swarm a day. I had problems with two of the first
    three swarms I caught and I know some of you have had the same problem. The first and third
    swarms I caught, did not like the new home I gave them because they both declined to stay and
    moved out into another swarm. I caught each a second time and offered all new hive bodies in
    different locations and each declined to stay again. I was not successful at finding either one a
    third time.
    Those two swarms were unusual for me but I know some of you have had the same problem
    with losing caught swarms. Last year and, except for those two, this year, I have not had a
    problem at all. Last year, I almost felt like I could just point and say “go” and they would go to
    the new home I prepared for them. I’ll discuss different ways to catch swarms in a minute, but
    here’s what I do to prepare a new home for them.
    I put a 10 frame deep hive body on a solid bottom board (they seem to initially like a dark home
    which screened bottom boards cannot provide). In the hive body, I put two frames of drawn
    comb with 8 frames of new foundation. You can definitely overdo the drawn comb. My guess
    is it makes the hive seem too small for them if you use too much drawn comb. (I have no
    science to back that up). I put an inner cover and an outer cover with a feeder jar hole in it
    close by. I take 2 or 3 outer frames of the new foundation out (depending on the size of the
    swarm) and spread the two drawn comb frames apart. Now you’ve created a hole in the
    middle, bordered by the drawn foundation (Don’t use the nasty old stuff. Save that for your
    swarm traps. Use good fairly clean drawn frames).
    I usually spray some 1 to 1 sugar water on the comb and foundation just to add an additional
    attractant. When you pour, dump, drop the bees from your swarm into the hole, gently and
    slowly push the frames together and put the frames you took out back in. Once the frames
    have settled down and the bees have made room for them, put the inner cover on, then the
    outer cover and add a jar of 1 to 1 sugar water to the feeder hole and leave them alone for a
    few days. With any luck, you’re done.
    You should ALWAYS put up swarm traps, as many as you can. They seem to work better if they
    are 100 yards or so away from the bee hives, but I have caught swarms in them sitting on the
    back fender of my bucket truck, parked in the middle of my beeyard. Despite what the books
    say, I never put a swarm trap higher than I can comfortably reach while standing on the ground.
    That means 5 or 6 feet from the ground. I prefer to use wooden NUC boxes. I screw a scrap
    piece of 1 by 4 about 14 inches long to the side of the box with a 1 inch hole drilled in the top so
    I can hang it on a nail.
    Inside the NUC box I put two fames of nasty old drawn comb, one on either side, and smear
    some swarm lure (see our website) on the inside back of the box. I leave the middle empty to
    create the impression of space. Doing that is a little dangerous because you’ll need to discover
    that it has been occupied pretty quickly. If a swarm moves in, they will construct comb from
    the top, thus creating a mess for you if you don’t open it and add three more frames of new
    foundation within a day of occupancy. You’ll have no choice but to remove that comb to add
    the new frames. And that really, really pisses them off.
    Here’s something very important to remember. A swarm caught hanging from a tree limb or
    elsewhere, can be put into a hive body sitting next to the hive they swarmed from or anywhere
    else in your bee yard. They will not have imprinted on a location at that point. Bees caught in a
    swarm trap, however are a very different story. If you remove that occupied trap and put it 20
    feet away, the bees will all go back to where it was and cannot find it where it is. You must
    move that occupied swarm trap 2 miles away, at dusk or later, leave them for 2 weeks, then
    you can bring them back and put them where you want them.
    It can be a pain so why use swarm traps? It’s for those swarms you didn’t see or for those who
    swarmed too high to reach. It doesn’t always work but it does more often than you’d think. As
    I sit here typing this, I’ve got a swarm in a trap in my beeyard. They came yesterday and I
    added the extra frames this morning and still had to remove a fair amount of comb they had
    built. Now that I’ve done that, I can actually leave them there for a week or two before I move
    them to my second yard two miles away.
    Now to catching swarms. Where the swarm has landed and formed has EVERYTHING to do
    with how to catch them. I caught a swarm at West Central Hospital two days ago that had
    formed in a pile on the ground. I put a NUC box with 1 frame of drawn comb and 4 frames of
    new foundation on the ground with the entrance touching the outer edge of the swarm. They
    immediately started marching in. I left it there and came back at dusk. All the bees, even the
    scout bees were inside so I just closed the entrance, took them home and reopened the
    entrance. They’re doing just great.
    I did something similar once when faced with a swarm that was so wrapped around a bush and
    chain link fence I simply couldn’t get to them any other way. I put a couple of concrete blocks
    on the ground to prop the NUC box up high enough to let the front edge touch the outer edge
    of the swarm. They marched right in. Once they start, you can use sticks to create bridges from
    the swarm to the entrance and they will use them.
    Wrapped around a big thick limb or the trunk of a tree. First of all, get their new home ready
    with a filled feeder jar close by. I like using a Styrofoam cooler with a screened over hole in the
    top (Jim Ellis showed me how to do this years ago). Spray the swarm with 1 to 1 sugar water.
    Don’t drown them but spray then all over pretty heavily. You’ll see them scrunch up when you
    do this. The sugar water keeps them from flying as much and also makes them heavy so when
    you start brushing them (the only useful function I’ve ever found for a bee brush) into your
    catch box, they fall to the bottom. Go around the limb or tree trunk, brushing them into the
    box. You won’t get them all but get as many as you can and put the lid on the box. Carry them
    to the hive you’ve prepared and dump them in, gently at first but tapping the box on top of the
    hive to get them into the hive. Close the hive and start feeding. Now go back to the swarm and
    repeat. Carry them to the hive and dump them on and around the entrance. Do that as often
    as you like but know you will have to leave some behind. Just leave as few as possible and (for
    your peace of mind) assume the stragglers will go back to the mother hive.
    My favorite swarm is one hanging like a tear-drop on a small limb. Don’t spray them. You don’t
    want them falling off. Grasp the limb above the bees and as gently as you can, clip it off above
    your hand. Now you can gently lay them into your catch box or, if it’s in your beeyard, lay them
    on top of the frames of the hive you prepared. They’ll work their way down off the limb into
    the hive. Shake any stragglers off when you’ve run out of patience.
    On a medium sized limb, spray them good, hold your box under the swarm and shake the limb
    as hard as you can to drop them into your catch box.
    You’ll encounter swarms in many different configurations if you do this long enough, but one of
    the methods of capture I’ve described can usually be modified to work, understanding we are
    discussing swarm capture and NOT bee removal. Once a swarm has moved into the wall of
    your house, it is no longer a swarm and none of the above applies.
    I added honey supers to all of my hives, except one, about 3 weeks ago. Every hive I opened
    had bees boiling out and I could see beautiful white wax comb on the majority of the frames in
    the top brood box. The one hive I did not super only had two frames in the top brood box
    drawn. Probably the result of a swarm but I’ll watch them more closely. I may have to requeen
    or combine it with another hive. Check your honey supers every couple of weeks and be
    prepared to add another in a timely manner.
    I had a call from one of our members today that made me sad. He had scrupulously saved his
    drawn comb after harvesting last year and opened his containers today only to find massive
    wax moth damage. He had stored his frames in plastic containers with moth crystals and
    sealed them with duct tape. Unknowingly he had created the perfect environment for breeding
    wax moths. Moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene) evaporate in about 3 to 4 weeks. If all the
    larvae have not been killed by the crystals, the warm moist environment allows the moth
    population to explode. It’s happened to me on occasion so, as Bill Clinton would say, I feel his
    What I do now is freeze the frames for a few days after the bees have cleaned them up. I then
    stack them in supers about 6 or 7 high and put moth crystals generously in a paper bowl on top
    of the stack and cover the top. I try to remember to unstack and check every 4 weeks or so,
    and add new crystals. It’s a lot of work, but if you don’t do it, you could lose your wax as did my
    Although this one is more like a rambling dialogue than a newsletter, I hope some of you find it
    useful. If you have questions or topics you’d like me to discuss, please email me and I’ll try to
    find out if I don’t know the answers.
    Be good to your bees