Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bees Are Boss

Adam planned to paint the boat today. But the bees had other plans.
Pollen-loaded bee
The hull had been white (on top) and blue (on bottom).
However, while he was at the bee hives this morning, a cloud of bees from the small Langstroth hive decided to swarm. They headed for this little bush, attached themselves to a few of its branches, and clung there.
After  a few more minutes, they'd settled down and formed a nice, sagging bee swarm, just above the grass.
Adam had planned to split that Langstroth today anyway; he could tell it was packed with bees and they were going to swarm soon. But April 2 is a bit early, bees! He had a box ready for them.
He held onto the top of the branches where the swarm hung, and I took the loppers and gingerly cut those branches at the base, until the branches with the swarm were free of the bush. Then Adam gently carried the swarm+branches to the new box and shook them into it.
He'd already lifted a nice full frame of honey/brood/bees from the older Langstroth hive, and put it into the new box as well. This will encourage the swarm to stay in that box. They don't like to abandon their young.
Adam steals a frame from the old Langstroth to give to the new swarm hive.
Then he put a top on the new hive.
We didn't move them. We could tell by how aggressively the bees on the landing board were fanning (with their wings) that the hive was too hot in the sunshine. We put my market tent over the hive for the day to help them manage their hive temperature. The hive quickly settled down and the bees flew inside. Adam then stapled mesh screen over the entrance and landing board to keep them inside.
Phew! That was a morning's work! But when bees say it's time to jump, the beekeeper leaps into the air and asks, "Is this high enough?"
After lunch, we addressed the boat painting. All of Adam's prep work (days, weeks, so many hours!) of sanding and scraping and removing ... well, that makes the actual painting rather quick.
Only the top of the hull is being painted first. This gorgeous deep blue paint was gifted to us by a boating friend who had it left over after he painted his Cape Dory Typhoon. Keepin' it in the Typhoon family :)
The bottom of the hull will be red. A white stripe will grace the lower part of the dark blue.
After the painting was done, Adam and I sat in our shady chairs by the beehives, studying that middle hive. It doesn't look like much -- two little boxes. But that's the one that's so active, so full. By limiting the number of boxes in the hive, Adam prevents the bees from amassing huge amounts of honey. But as the queen lays, and the babies are born, the hive must swarm or be over-populated.
From looking in the hive, Adam could tell it was still rather full and would likely swarm in the next week again. So he took pre-emptive measures. See the new red hive boxes in the grass? He put that together today. He got his bee smoker going:
And he did yet another split, moving two heavy frames of honey/brood/bees from that short 2-box hive (in the middle, with the strap around it), into the new red boxes.
He examined the frames carefully first to get young brood and full frames.
Thankfully the temperatures today were warm enough to open the hives this way without harming the bees. In they go!
Then, the last bee business ~ Adam moved this morning's swarm hive onto the bee table too. He stacked it on top of the middle Langstroth hive. See it there, under the window, on top? (If you look carefully you can see the mesh enclosing its gate.) We've never had to stack hives like that before, but he's now run out of room on his bee table. He'll be building another one.
Seven hives! Can you believe it? Amazing. Now we leave them alone and see if both the new swarm and the new spit will take. Sometimes bees reject a change like that. He'll wait three days before removing the mesh barrier from the swarm hive gate. That gives them adequate time to become friendly and form a hive identity, so they don't take off again and run away to some tree.
This was a grand bee day! Isn't it amazing simply to allow God's creatures to do what they do best -- be fruitful and multiply! -- and we all reap the benefits?


  1. Heaps of hives there M.K. Just as well you were at home when that hive swarmed and you were able to collect the bees.
    Gorgeous colour on the hull of that boat. Love it.

  2. I think the "elf and safety" experts would be having kittens. Bare hands!! I'm used to seeing beekeepers dressed up like astronauts.

  3. This is the biggest bee day of which I have ever read (I don't read any commercial beekeepers blogs!). How did Adam learn all this? What an inspiration....I have my equipment for 2 new hives arriving in a few weeks, and my single hive seems to have survived the winter. Yay, bees!

  4. Great post! What an interesting and rewarding hobby.

    The boat is looking really good.

    Have a lovely Easter ~ FlowerLady

  5. I hope they stay! Love hearing about the bees.x

  6. I love hearing all the bee news! How much honey do you foresee harvesting? The boat's looking great! :) Happy Easter!

  7. Bees are so fascinating. Watching that hive swarm and settle into the bush would have been cool. We had an experience with that years ago that I posted about on my other blog HERE: That was pretty exciting for us.

  8. Remember when there was all that fuss on Lark Rise about the bees swarming long ago? I think you should have a bee cottage theme when you build your cob house, MK. Happy Easter, lovely friend! Sending heaps of warm wishes your way!


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