Friday, June 25, 2010

The Big Swarm / and Kids of Course

Oh my she is cute!!
But what I really need to tell you about is the bees. Remember this swarm that arrived on the day of the triplets birth? Well, this is a lot of bees hanging off of one another and filling the inside of the hitch since it is angle iron leaving a good sized pocket for them. Not to mention the gazillion flying around in the air and a few clusters on the ground not shown in the photo. If you doubt watch the hitch shrink in the next picture and the amount of bees flying around me.
In the center of this mass somewhere is the queen. The objective is to get her inside the hive without hurting her and as many of the bees as possible. The problem is with this massive cluster you couldn't find her if you wanted too with everyone wearing almost identical striped suites. So the next best thing is to scoop up a cupped shaped handful and place them over the opening of the boxes, shake my hands downward in a fairly forceful manner and the bees fall into the hive. There are two frames missing in the center of the top box to allow the bees a cavity to fall into. It's that simple, scoop shake downward, scoop, shake downward over and over again.
Of course some come flying back out and some cluster on the ground, on the sides of the box and everywhere else but inside. Not to mention all those who took flight taking an area view of the whole process. It reminds me of teaching your kids to go to bed. Placing them back in to their beds to turn around and their out again, back in - out again, back in - out again until they finally stay.
I had a few problems that made the matter worse. I didn't have the right kind of boxes. Oh there was a main entrance but no smaller secondary holes. I didn't have any brood chambers with frames. So these kiddies wouldn't stay in bed. My hives right now aren't set up exactly correctly with the entrances. I have lots of brood chamber boxes but little to no frames so I've made do. Been going to get to that issue. Today in fact I ordered new frames for three hives worth of brood chambers to solve the shortage problem.
Plus, mine have been used too many times and in doing so the bees end up hatching smaller and smaller in size because of the cluttered cells the larvae live in.
So soon all the new eggs will have clean new rooms.
To expedite the process of getting the bees to move quickly inside the hive, I placed a brood chamber with its small entrance hole on top the honey supers. The main entrance had a huge traffic jam. I know that isn't the way it goes. They go on the bottom but a girl has to do what a girl has to do when she's got three unattended children in the house and she doesn't want them coming out again before she's done. I knew I'd hit the jackpot when I scooped up a handful and held it near the hole and they quickly scampered off to climb inside to see their new home. Before they had just kept massing in clusters on the ground and on different sides of the boxes since they were waiting for the entrance traffic to clear a bit.

If the queen is inside when night come they will all go in but then again if I didn't have the queen I was in trouble because they might leave. When your handed such a nice big gift, it isn't wise to throw it back out again. I know the new tenants are going to trash the place, sorry a set up as it is. I've left way too much play space. A whole box full and I know they are busy as I type filling it with creative Burr sculptures like the one in the picture. BUT, tomorrow I take them out to the Buffalo Ranch to their new home. It takes two to lift the hives and my hubby will be home tomorrow afternoon. Boy, does he have a back log of projects I just couldn't manage by myself. We'll do it at night after all the bees have gone home and we can close them up with tape and haul them off. Frames please get here in a hurry would you. Yes, life is never calm at the Rexroat's abode.

I just know that some of you sharpies are wondering how do I know if I got the queen when so many bees are still in the air and some in small clusters on the ground? Well, the majority of the bees will stay inside if the queen is present as she holds a commanding presence. Plus they will all cluster up again like they did before with the queen tucked safely in the middle. Had that happen before. Time is of the essense when capturing the cluster as they will soon take off to go house shopping. That's why I added a little treat to insure they would want to stay, a half gallon of sugar water in a sippy cup. Okay, not quite a sippy cup but a half gallon canning jar turned upside down with a cap that has bee mouth sized holes in it for sipping through.

Yes, I've done this a few times before, capturing swarms. Once when the buffalo tore down the fence and rubbed on several of our hives, dumping one all the way over. They were swarmed on a nearby fence post. Luckily, one of the ranch hands saw them before they took off leaving no forwarding address.

Another couple times a bee truck had been going through our area and the cover wasn't tight. We received phone calls from people we knew to come and get the SCARY cluster of bees out of their yard. Actually, those swarms are some of the tamest bees you'll meet. They don't have a home to protect so they are quite docile. In comparison to this cluster those swarms were a fourth of the size or less. It's always nice to work your way up to a big project. Both those clusters had queens. Sometimes the trucks just loose worker bees and their behavior is different. Okay, different to a bee keeper but then I tap on a hive now and then just to hear them hum. You can tell a lot about the home by the sounds made inside. If momma ain't home or in other words the queen has died, then no-ones happy. There are a few other more subtle rumbles but a nice sweet hum is music to my ears.

Even with a home to defend, I find bees quite amicable most of the time. Oh there is a few crankies. I've had a couple from one hive in the back that I've been looking for an excuse to squash. They buzz rather irritatingly around my blond hair for no reason. But really, if I can sit a foot in front of the hive with a macro lens taking pictures, no bee suite or veil, then bees aren't that hard to get along with. The grand kids sit with me part of the time and we just watch. It's fun to see the color of the pollen they are bringing in and just observe their behavior. They have personalities too.

You've thrown the first punch and they are willing to die in the fight, so your likely to get stung. Move slowly with smooth motions and your not likely to pose a threat.
The bee story has been told so come along with me and
I'll take you on a little photo tour of our kids.
(Note, our grand daughter has tried to lead both our Nubian does.)
Look at that flat rump, and classy body on this doeling.
And this little girl ain't no slouch either.
If they get mom's fore udder, wow!
And her rear attachment, yeah. We've really got something. The best thing is the buck that serviced this whole operation lives right across the lane and we can do it all over again next year. Of course there is Cracker Jack. What can I say, he's not ugly for he's adorable in his own way, especially when he's bucking and playing. But he's not in the same class as the girls. The triplets remind me of the show Lady and The Tramp II where they have puppies. No, Cracker Jack doesn't have a tramp for a dad as he too is well bred but just the contrast in offspring.
Michelle and I are toying with the names Cicely and Cassia for the girls. What do you think or do you have other suggestions? We're just at the point of throwing names back and forth. We don't even know which girl will receive what. If you want to get in your two cents, please do. There are I'm sure, names we haven't even thought of yet. So what names do you suggest for these velveteen beauties?

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