bees, take 3

On Thursday, I went to check on my bees and was a little alarmed to see that they had taken up almost ALL of the available space in the hive.  Saturday morning, I let the dog out and noticed a dark blot in the very top of my fig tree.  About 20 feet up.  I got out the binoculars (closer at hand than my glasses) and gasped to see this:

This swarm was about three times the size of the swarm I'd captured  in March.  I guessed that they'd come from my over-full hive, and a quick check through the window showed that it was still quite full, but not so full of bees that I couldn't see the comb.  I sent my bee mentor an email, and within an hour, Richard was over with his swarm capturing equipment.  We got the bees, but it took almost 2 hours.

After we knew we'd gotten the queen, we checked on my hive.  Richard explained that the old queen leaves the hive with 60% of the worker bees when they swarm.  Typically, they do this after they've capped several new queen cells, which you see here:


That peanut-shaped bump is a queen cell, filled with royal jelly and bee larvae.  To the right, you see some raised bumps, which are drone brood, and the flat capped cells are worker brood.  We found five capped queen cells, plus several other empty queen cups.  Because Richard raises queens, I had him take three of the five capped queen cells back to his apiary.  In another few days, the new queens will emerge, determine which queen will be queen (it's a death-fight), then take her mating flight.  After that flight, she'll spend the rest of her life inside the hive, laying eggs.  Unless, of course, the colony outgrows its space and they swarm, in which case she will leave with 60% of her colony and begin again.

Because my intention with beekeeping is increasing bee health and the bee population, I'm happy to see my colony grow and divide like this.  If I were keeping bees for honey, swarming would mean less honey for me to harvest, but that's secondary.

Interestingly, late Saturday afternoon I got an email from Rebecca detailing her family's swarm adventure.  Seems to be the season!

Later this week: more pitchers and maybe some mishima.

Have a lovely week!