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Third Time's a Charm

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Christine

Mom! Dad! Something is HAPPENING!

Mom and Dad (my collaborators and problem solvers) followed me out to the area where one of my bee hives was located. They stood a fairly safe distance away since there was a large number of bees surrounding the hive. I was all up in the craziness due to my newfound comfort with the "buzzers". The bees were definitely leaving the hive. There seemed to be a few flying around a tree branch close by. Sure enough, after a few minutes of observation, we found a clump of bees attached to a tree limb in that same tree. We were witnessing our first swarm! 3Points Farm Bee Swarm

Swarms are a natural and healthy part of a colony's lifecycle. Bees will swarm if they've outgrown their space. The old queen will fly off with half the hive while the remaining half will stay behind and raise a new queen. There are 2 downsides to swarms from a beekeepers perspective:

  1. you are losing half of your livestock to the wild
  2. those left behind could have an issue with queen survival

3Points Farm Top Bar Beehive Feeder I was actually pretty ecstatic to witness my bees swarming. I lost both hives in 2015. (Hawaii never recovered from the laying worker, and Iceland died of starvation during the winter months.) I'm at the point where I feel I should be experienced enough to STOP losing hives, so each loss is a pretty big hit. 2016 seemed to have incredibly healthy hives. What was the big change I made in 2016? I fed them! During installation I had a feeder set up. This seemed to give the bees the energy they needed to get established and start looking for food. I only fed them one quart size jar of sugar water. It was dry by the time I took it out a few weeks later!

The winterization done to the hives was pretty minimal. I counted the number of honey combs (topbars) that the bees had. One hive had 11 while the other had 13. Considering that a few of the combs still didn't have honey in them when I was checking them, I was assuming 9 and 11 for actual food. According to what I have read, this should be sufficient for them to get through the winter. I am prepared to feed them a little in the early spring if I need to.

I still have a few efficiencies I need to make surrounding the bees, but they are becoming a little less drastic. The first addition is being prepared to capture a swarm. This will require something to attract them and catch the swarm as well as a permanent home if I can catch them. One thing I learned this summer is that swarms happen, and you need to react fast. The second update I need to make is around the topbar itself. The bees are definitely creating a lot of comb, and it isn't too organized from topbar to topbar. I either need to have better guides, or figure out a different way to be able to better inspect each comb.

I have a feeling 2017 is going to be another great year for bees! I'll be sure to update once I figure out the bees' statuses after the winter.