Honey bees continue to break the rules and re-write the texts

Contributed by J. Morgan

The one constant in beekeeping is that it's always changing, and rightly so, I guess. Bees are intelligent, adaptive, and always improving their efficiency. In our bee club, a few of us often comment, "The bees aren't reading the same books I am." Swarm season is in full affect around here up around here and I'm not sure if it's the odd weather patterns we've had, or if the bees just want to shake it up a bit, but they are not acting the way they did last year, or the year before come to think of it. I won't speak for everyone, but the bees continue to befuddle and confuse me. When I think, let's do this, because surely they will like it, the opposite is true. Could it be they are evolving and changing ever-so-cleverly to elude those of us who come to put them in a box?

I want to share a few swarm stories with you from the last two weeks to illustrate what I mean. I've only ever caught a single swarm in a trap that I put out. I have about 4 traps set here and there this year, but the bees just don't end up in the neat traps I put out. I usually have to go get my bees... and I'm not complaining, it's fun and challenging. One thing I've noticed is the bees are not waiting around like they did last year. For two early calls I received, the bees had left before I arrived.

I had to catch one swarm in Osgood, twice. I shook them in to a box and thought I'd run across the street to get me some lunch while they settled in. When I came back, they were gone.

The homeowner said, they were just bustling about 10 minutes ago. It became clear to me, they were bustling out of my hive 10 minutes ago. I decided to walk around the house and check the trees. Sure enough, there they were in another tree just waiting for me to shake them in to a box again. I did it again, but this time, I strapped it up and trapped them in the box so they couldn't leave. As I watched the scattered bees all settle back into the place they were, I gave one more shake in to my bee vac inner box (just to get all the foragers I could and bring back home with me). Garry told me he's an advocate of locking up the bees for a day or to before letting them fly to avoid them possibly absconding again. I did it, and they stayed, so, I've been doing this more and more.

On another job in Cleves, OH, the bees decided that ornamental grass was the place to be. Not only were they close to the ground completely exposed to the elements, they started building comb in the grass. See the picture in the attached gallery of images.

In all, I'm up to 7 swarms and two cut-outs this year and still have a trap out waiting for me. I'm committed to doing one trap-out each year just so I can have my Cleo Hogan box at work. I've only done one trap out before and it was last season. Trapping bees out of a catalpa tree took most of the season. I've given most of my swarms to friends starting up in beekeeping, or beekeepers that needed to fix some losses they had. I have become pretty picky on the swarms. If they are not abnormally large, then I have combined them and doing so has paid off. I have some new hives with double deeps that are really taking off. I find that sacrificing a bottom board, deep and inner/top cover has to be justified with a good number of bees, but that's just me.

I'll update more as we wrap up this swarm season. I'd love to get some pictures and stories from all of you! Email it to me, or give me something at a bee meeting and we'll get it up here!

Update on June 18: Got a call from a good friend who works at Wilmington College and there was a big swarm off bees on campus. The hour and 20 minute drive up was made easier when he sent me a picture. It was worth the drive if they stayed put. It did. rain and hail on the way up... but they didn't get the same weather. As we began vac'ing up the bees, we realized there was 5 rows of comb they were covering... right there, exposed to the elements... how, and why? With all the intelligence in bees, you'd think they'd never opt for full exposure. There was a week or two of comb there. Click here to see the pics

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