Sunday, April 24, 2011


my next door neighbor reported he had a swarm over at his rental. so off i go. located at the base of a fence - overgrown with weeds. i was able to scoop the bees into the hive. scoop after scoop - it was a small swarm, but they just werent cooperating too well.

a few more scoops and BAM - i found the queen, grabbing her by the wings and popped her into the nuc hive. this one was pretty easy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


got a call from a neighbor about a swarm hanging on a fence pole at his house. the neighbor is pretty allergic to bees, but has a real positive attitude about the bees in general. i plan to keep them supplied with honey.

this swarm was hived while it was raining - not overly tuff, but makes the bees a bit testy.

while hiving it, i was able to ID the queen, grabbed her by the wings and showed her to the neighbor. i placed her in the hive, and after that - it was a slam dunk to get the bees in the box.

i have room for 1 more swarm.


this was the second one i hived friday night. pretty decent size swarm and i saw the queen, so this one should do well.


came home work on friday and found two swarms awaiting me.

this one was a pretty small cluster, but i needed to clear this one to get to the fatty further up the tree. this was a quick and easy capture.

but it didnt last long. swarm #11 came in saturday afternoon. and i needed the box this swarm was in. this cluster was very small and prior to grabbing #11 i looked at #9. didnt see a queen, so this cluster lost its queen and was doomed.

they are now co-mingled with #11.

tomato starts update

keith dropped off the starts in early april - just as they were ready to be potted up out of the 6 pack cells. wasting no time, these babies went right into the next size pots. then, they didnt look so good.

it seems that the move to larger digs, resulted in some shock. the starts just didnt look good; clearly unhappy, the leaves yellowed. growth stagnated. are these guys going to make it? about 9 days later, things started to look better.

leaves greened up, new ones sprouted and as you can see - looks like these babies are getting ready to rock and roll.

tomato season 2011 - lets roll.

#6 and #7 - at rest - and bill, see its not only you...

my gardening friend and fellow beekeeper, bill bird of natomas, - yeah you know the guy - a well known blog and gets some good press from the sacbee - he was concerned, as his hello kitty hive swarmed, not once but 4 or 5 times this spring.

at 1900 foot elevation, my hives are about 3 weeks behind bills, but i am going thru a similar process. humans like to think they can control things. we plan and work and do what we can to impose our will upon the workings of nature. it usually doesnt work. occasionally we get lucky.

this year not so much.

i have witnessed at least 8 swarms, all issued from hives that i own, i reversed the brood chambers - which is about all one can do. but i did know this was inevitable. the swarms in the attached picture, are still on the tree limbs 30 feet up, it has rained 2 times since they landed, hopefully they will make it. i think it would be pretty cool if they do.

all of my hives - save 1 - came from swarms captured in 2010. i did not requeen any of them. so swarming is a part of their genetics - of which i did nothing to improve. so in 2011, i intend to change that.

i have 4 new world carniloan queens on reserve to be picked up in mid-june. nwc's are a well established controlled breeding line - which among other things, utilize a small winter cluster. small winter clusters, usually come into spring with less proclivity to swarm.

no swarms = happy neighbors. happy neighbors = bees get to stay.

so in june, new queens will be introduced, by the time fall hits all of the bees in those 4 hives, will be nwc strain. my plan is as follows.

the 4 hives that are not requeened will be joined with the 4 with nwc queens. these 'super hives' will go into winter strong. some time around march, i will split the hives, essentially giving each hive room to grow, without the need to swarm.

this will create 4 hives with new queens. these hives will be requeened with 2012 nwc's queens. the hives requeened in 2011, should be ok thru 2012.

like is said these are my plans - if you have any questions as to success - please refer to paragraph #2.

#6 and #7

if you look real close at the picture, you will notice a bunch of black dots. those are the bees that made up - what turned out to be 2 swarms flying at one time. i never had a chance with these, as they came to rest on branches about 30 feet up in a digger pine in the backyard.

its amazing how loud a swarm of bees are - if you ever get a chance to witness such an event, just relax, sit back and enjoy. they arent aggressive and its a marvel of nature. something akin to entropy in action.

#5 - the sequel

this is the one i left behind - when i went to get the fatty - you remember, the one on the lower branch. well they stayed put overnight and early sunday morning, i was able to get them hived. it wasnt an easy job, these vertical trunk hugging swarms are a challenge.

so sugar spraying and sweeping, i go, actually getting them into the nuc hive - and at one point i actually see the queen - she dropped on the hive cover and just as i am set to grab her by the wings, she takes off. this would have been a slam dunk. queen in hive = pretty much a done deal. i was unable to see where she went to, but hoped she went back to the original branch.

so with most bees in the hive, i go on to my other chores. later in the day the only thing left in the hive is a few straggler bees. 15 feet further up the tree - way out of reach - is that nice swarm, which i will never be able to reach. win some, lose some.

i like to look at it as giving back to mother nature, who has sent a lot of swarms my way this spring. good luck bees.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


this is the one left behind - the one a few feet down, which hopefully will still be there sunday morning for me to capture.


this one awaited me after a long day working a derby for a fisheries group i lead. it was about 10 feet off the ground, late evening and to add to the challenge; their was a second swarm in the same manzanita, but a few feet lower.

so what to do - i cant do both swarms, when i knock one, the other will fall also and being that i have to hang on to the ladder, position a box under the target swarm and also keep from falling - a choice had to be made.

so i go for the fatty.

squirted pretty thoroughly with sugar water, i pulled down the branch holding the fatty. they dropped like dress on prom night - right into the target box. descending the ladder, i was able to get the swarm poured into the nuc hive; at the cost a stung middle finger, that is swelling up pretty good right now.

this one will be combined with another swarm in a few weeks.


its that time of year, where a beekeeper looks all around - not at the flowers, or pretty ladies - but for swarms. this one showed up on friday 4/15 - hanging on the garden fence. anything other than a swarm hanging off a horizontal branch, can be a challenge.

i approached this with the usual heavy dose of sugar water, generously sprayed all over the swarm. being that one cant rap the fence hard enough to kick-off a dramatic swarm drop into a hive i had to come up with a plan b.

once well soaked, i used the hive tool and scraped the bees into a cardboard lid and poured the mass of bees into the nuc hive. it took a few scrapes and the bees were in the hive. by evening time, the bees were all snug in their nuc hive and at 5 AM saturday morning, they were moved up to hive position #8 - filling up my apiary.

still looking for a few more good swarms - to combine with new swarms to get them going even more.


this one landed on a tree, not 10 feet from 2011's first swarm. this one was a little easier to get to - but still required a severe tree cutting to get it out of there. so far, all my swarms have been issued from hives on my property. not a great thing - but with gas hovering at $4 per gallon, at least i am driving all over the county to get my bees.

Monday, April 4, 2011

1950's era documentary on beekeeping

this short clip is certainly dated, but i long for an era - in which i never lived, and perhaps its viewed with rose colored glasses. but it seems the 1950's just was a good time to live, simpler life, safer world (after all - we just stomped on the bad guys in ww2) and the classic leave it to beaver presentation just resonates with me. production values are low, but this is the type of movie we would watch at elementary school back in the 1970's. before digital - everything was analog, very analog. the info is still relevant. enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

first swarm of 2011

i got called out last week on a swarm that scooted to wherever, before i could capture it - more common than one might think, as swarms that land on branches typically are only waiting for a better place to live. today, late in the afternoon, heading out of my garden, i spotted a swarm of bees that had settled on a pine tree.

a swarm clustered on a tree trunk isnt an easy swarm to hive. the nice fatty i punted to keith, over at bill birds, is a text book perfect swarm. a nice heavy swarm on a horizontal branch. juice them up with sugar water and 'BAM!' into the hive they drop.

this one - as you can tell, decided to take up abode along the trunk, extending vertically for about 3 feet. not an easy one to get to, much less hive. fortunately, it was on a tree which i would have to cut down sometime anyway - and no better reason than to get a swarm.

a few hacks with my loppers and i was able to lean the swarm over the hive box and dropped them in. well, they didnt drop real well - it some brushing, sugar water spraying, and more brushing and finally most of the bees were in the hive. tomorrow, they will move over to their new home.