The spring weather has been a little wetter than normal. Over the course of 5 days we got 12 inches of rain. Needless to say we had river front property! The river was near record flood, but still not a danger to the house. It is just that we can see it from the deck when it gets that high! It also causes the bees trouble when they should be out looking for spring stores, they are locked in the hive by constant down pours.
This hive has been a study in patience and a test of my lack of bee knowledge. They came out of winter looking good and appeared to start building up as expected. But after all the rain stopped an inspection showed they had not built up at all and maybe even shrunk. I had reversed the boxes in early spring, but the top box (old bottom box) remained empty. So I removed the remaining sugar brick and the top box on the first of April. At that time there were about 3 frames of bees, only one of capped brood. I decided to leave them alone and hope for the best. Well that only lasted a couple of weeks, three to be exact before I had to get involved. I then checked and they were still about the same size. I had frames of capped honey (sugar water really) from the other hive that died over the winter, so I decided to add two frames of honey to see if that would help get them going. It has been another three weeks and they are looking much better. There are about six frames of bees with 2-3 in brood of various ages. So again I will leave them alone. Just hoping I can get them back to two deep boxes by summer’s end to make it through next winter.
I placed my swarm trap out on April 1st. I also set out the NUC box I built last year and baited it with LGO and some old black comb, just in case. While there was absolutely NO activity at either trap, I went ahead and set out my empty hive body around April 15th and baited it with LGO and old black comb. Last year there was scout activity at the trap for about three weeks before the swarm showed up. Not this year, I noticed nothing except a lot of wasp until about May 11th. Then all of the sudden there was a ton of activity at the main trap. Bees coming and going with purpose. So I waited until today, when I saw several bees bringing in pollen to declare we had captured a swarm.
Now it gets complicated. The rule of thumb as I understand it is that you move bees either less than 3ft or more than 3 miles. If you don’t, foragers will return the original location and eventually die without the protection of a hive. My swarm trap is about 50 yards from where the new hive will be located and we don’t have anywhere more than 3 miles away to move it first. The other option as I understand it is that you confine the bees to the hive for 24-72 hours, then place tree branches in front of the hive entrance to confuse the bees when you allow them to leave again. This forces the bees to reset their internal GPS and re-orient to the new hive location.
Our plan is this, since this is a new colony without any stores I have added a frame of honey (sugar water really) from the old hive to the swarm trap. This should keep them from starving during confinement. Tonight after the foragers have returned, I will close the trap entrance. It has holes to allow ventilation and we will leave the trap in the tree where it is shaded and should be cooler for the next day or two. Then I will move the trap to the hive stand, place branches in front for the entrance and reopen it. After a couple of days and before the forecasted rain for this weekend, I will move the bees and the frames to the hive body and place it on the stand in the same location the trap was sitting. This will hopefully allow the bees to first orient to the new location, before they also have to reorient to a new hive box.
Let me know in the comments if you think this will work and why not if you disagree. Then check for an update next week to see what happened!