Monday, May 31, 2010

The Art of Splitting a Hive - Part 1 (May 27th Thursday)

Last Thursday, May 27th, my father called me and said he thought one of my hives swarmed. There was a cluster of honeybees way up in a tree near the bee yard. I asked him if he could capture them while I was on my way out to his house as it would be an hour before I arrived. He went back out and they had flown away deeper into the woods and he wasn't able to locate them. The honeybees must have been from a neighbor's hive or a wild bee hive.

When I arrived at my dad's house it was 91 degrees and approximately 1pm. My mother had finished preparing lunch and I enjoyed her wonderful cooked meal of cornbread, beans with green onion, and corn on the cob. My father and I then suited up and went into the bee yard approximately 2pm and the temperature had risen to 95 degrees. Inside a bee suit and direct sun a felt like 100 degrees.

We opened up Hive #2 because it had a lot of bees "out on the porch" meaning that bees were covering the outside from the entrance up the front. There were a lot of bees in the hive and we were going to look for swarm cells (queen cells) to see if what we thought was on target, this hive was getting ready to swarm.

We did find many thick and long swarm cells but did not find the queen. We went through three supers twice and could not find the queen. It was getting hotter and we were pretty exhausted so we decided to call it quits and try again in a couple of days with plan B if we could not find the queen.

There were several possible variables here:
1) the queen died and the bees were creating a new queen
2) the hive swarmed and the old queen went with the swarm (we ruled that out because there were thousands of bees in the hive. Too many to believe these were remaining bees.)
3) the queen died and there was a virgin queen in the amongst the workers. Virgin queens are hard to spot because their abdomens aren't full of eggs yet. But there were closed up swarm cells so if the virgin queen was in the hive she would have killed the queens in the swarm cells.

We closed up the hive and tried to cool down. A great way to cool down is to take a wet wash cloth and wrap it around ice cubes and apply it to the back of the neck. Then take a couple more wash cloths that have been run under very cold water and lay one each on your arms. Extend your arms with palms up and place the wash cloths where the crook of your arm is and that will bring your body temp down.