When I was a kid, I used to tell this nonsensical joke to people:
Two ducks are sitting in a bathtub. One duck says, “Pass the soap.” The other duck says, “No soap, radio!”
I’d laugh and they’d look at me like I was insane. I still get a kick out of that joke. As my wife frequently says to me, “You’re an idiot.”
Yesterday I planned to split BnB2. My new friend K came over to see my “operation” and provide assistance. She had some experience keeping bees a while back, but not as intensely as I have. My apprentice, Duncan, also came over to help.
BnB2 had lots of bees and the last time I looked, had plenty of brood and there should be some drones that should have emerged or just about to. The plan was to split into Laura’s hive which I had cleaned out last week.
I was hoping to find some queen (swarm) cells with larvae which meant they were already raising some new queens. The plan was to move the old queen and capped brood into Laura’s hive, add some bars of honey that I have stored up and let the queenless hive continue rearing the queen larvae and crown the first to emerge as queen of the hive.
We started in the back and found that the moldy comb of honey was mostly cleaned up. They have been eating through their honey stores as their numbers have increased, but there was already new nectar being stored in the combs and they still have plenty of honey.
As we worked our way forward toward the brood nest, I pointed out the different things on the combs to K. Duncan was doing most of the explaining – he’s really taken in what I’ve been teaching him. He pointed out all the queen cups before I saw them. Like I told K – my first year I couldn’t tell the difference between pollen and capped brood. Newly laid eggs are the hardest to see, but K and Duncan were finally able to see them after several tries. There were a few new drones and some patches of drone brood, so they were coming along.
There wasn’t as much capped brood as I was expecting for a split, the two queen cups Duncan spotted were empty and we never found the queen (though the eggs proved she was around). If we had found the queen, I probably would have done the split and let them raise a queen from one of the eggs. But I decided since there wasn’t as much capped brood as I would like to move over and no queen to be seen, I’d postpone it for a bit. We could get snow next weekend, so the weather might no cooperate with my plans. I don’t want to wait too long since I would like to have a queen raised, mated and laying in time for the honey flow in May.
Since we didn’t have to take the time to do the split, we also took a peek in BnB1. Her queen hasn’t been as productive this spring with only small patches of brood. This time when we looked, there was a little more brood and uncapped larvae, and we also found one whole side of a comb with new eggs. So, I think she’s just been slow to start increasing and there’s hope yet for this hive.
Later in the day, just as I was going to do my afternoon meditation around 5 pm, the phone rang and it was a call from the manager of the swarm hotline saying he had a swarm for me to get in Boulder if I wanted it. As much as I enjoy meditation, the choice to pass on this opportunity and meditate, or go catch a swarm was a no brainer. I called to make sure the swarm was still around, gathered up my equipment and took off.
When I got there, I found the swarm about a foot off the ground. It was a good sized one – probably 5-6 pounds of bees. They were just hanging out, waiting to decide where to go next. I could see some scout bees doing their waggle dance, pointing the way to a potential new home, but I was going to thwart their plans.
My biggest dilemma was which box to put it in. I have a banker’s box that I keep in my truck as a swarm catcher with screen over the holes, but I wasn’t sure if the swarm would fit in there. I had also brought a small top bar hive that I had built as a swarm trap, but realized that wouldn’t be practical because the bars might move as I was transporting them. I also had a cardboard nuc, but thought that might be too small. And, since I was going to dump this into a top bar hive, I didn’t want them clinging to the Langstroth combs in the nuc.
In the end, I used the banker’s box. I put a tarp down under the swarm and had to lift up the branch to slide the box underneath since it was almost touching the tarp. A couple of good shakes knocked most of the bees into the box which ended up being plenty big enough. But now I had a mass of bees climbing up the insides and out over the outside and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get the lid on to transport them to their new home. I eventually scooped them up with my (gloved) hands into the box and put the lid on. I had two clusters of bees on the outside covering the handholds, but was sure that the queen was in there.
I put the box with the bees on the outside into the cab of my truck and drove to Sarah’s house with my bee jacket and veil on. My veil kept falling down over my eyes and it wasn’t that easy to see the road. I figured I could get out of any ticket for speeding or erratic driving once the cop saw that my cab was filled with bees.
I got to Sarah’s, dumped the bees into her hive (which filled it up pretty full), added a couple of bars of honey that I had brought and they seemed happy. It was around 6:30 pm and getting cool, so I figured they’d hunker down for the night which will help the acceptance of their new home. I’ll drop over later today with some more bars of honey and see how they are doing.
All in all, a fun bee day!
Two beekeepers are in the yard. One beekeeper says, “Let’s make a split”. The other beekeeper says, “No split, swarm!”. My wife’s right. I am an idiot. Happy Spring!