Tag Archives: beekind

Where the Wild Bees Are: catching a swarm

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Sunday night right before dinner the phone rang. It was my neighbor Michelle, ‘I was looking out my kitchen window and you have a swarm in one of your walnut trees!’ No way! She had just picked up her package of bees the day prior. Knowing that her aspirations were to capture a wild swarm for a second hive (as they seem to be common on this street, our other neighbor had two swarms taken from his property two weeks ago), I said, ‘Well come get them!’

As soon as I hung up the phone, I hollered out a family wide announcement of  ‘Put your shoes back on! We’re going back outside!’ Just to be sure we checked on our bees first, yep, still safely in their hives. It wasn’t ours that had made a run for it.
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Then we walked across the property to check out this swarm. Even with my miniscule, newly acquired bee knowledge, I know that wild swarms are quite docile. Bees, while searching for a new home are all too preoccupied with their house hunting to bother stinging anyone, so I got up close to check them out. Amazing, isn’t it? Somewhere in the middle is a queen. How does she not get crushed? How does she breath in there?
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Whilst we were in the middle of putting the three kids to bed, Michelle came over fully suited up and calmly dropped that buzzing ball of bees into a box and carried it home. Just like that. Pretty remarkable, isn’t she?
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Now they live in their temporary box with two frames of foundation to keep them occupied until she can make the run out to Beekind to pick up another hive box.
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Looking at the scenery around her bee yard, I think those wild bees, with the help of ‘realtor’ Michelle have found themselves a prime piece of real estate!

I am quite anxious to see how my two colonies of Italians, her ‘Local Survivor Stock’ colony, and her wild colony will all compare. Will any one be stronger than the other? Will their honey taste differently? Only time will tell.

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It’s all the buzz around here

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Saturday afternoon I arrived at this welcoming place, above, Beekind in Sebastapol, to pick up the bees. I have had this date on the calendar for months now. Beekeeping is something I’ve wanted to do for years now but between city ordinances (which have since been relaxed), and having a baby and knowing we were going to move, I had to wait. Now that we are on this property and I have a few beekeeping friends I knew this was as good a time as any. Last August I picked up a copy of Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees to give me a good introduction into what I was getting into.
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(the boys were glued to the two bee boxes!)

When we first moved in our generous neighbor gave us an incredible basket of edible goodies and one of them was a canning jar full of honey. When we finally met in person we asked her if she kept bees and she casually replied that she caught a wild swarm in her backyard and this was their honey. Holy Cow! Incredible! Turns out she wanted to learn a little more and start a traditional hive this year too, so together we ventured out to Beekind a few weeks ago to take on of their hands on hive installation and inspection classes. Taking that class, for me, was invaluable. And knowing that there was someone over the fence with whom I could shout out to for moral bee support is also invaluable.
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Now, despite that I’ve read a book and taken a class, I am still a bumbling newbie in all of this, so when it came time to install the packages all sorts of little stumbling blocks came up such as. ‘Oh wait, the boxes are nailed together, what do we do about that?’ After finding that a hammer wasn’t going to pull out those tack strips easily we resort to a saw.
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A lot of deliberation, debating and worry went into the location of the hives. We finally decided upon a part of the yard that gets little foot traffic, has a high hedge to protect from the wind and is slightly overhung by a tree to give a little afternoon shade.
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What’s been great about the process is seeing how excited the boys are about it all. Our youngest son is well known to be a bee petter and the first question he had for the lady when we picked up the bees was, ‘can I hold one?’ But our oldest, as you can see above, wants to be right into it, picking things up, moving things around. He told me the other day, ‘Let’s go check on them, I just can’t resist the bees!’ I’m looking forward to them learning along with me.
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Installing the bees was a little heart racing but I didn’t get stung and all in all, it went smoothly. Inside those larger boxes of bees is a small box that the queen comes in. You can see me above brushing bees off of her with some grass. There is a cork in that box that you take out and replace with a mini-marshmallow. You then rubberband her to a frame and the workers eat their way into her.
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At the end of the day I got them all buttoned up and was quite proud and excited about our new venture. Yesterday I had to go back in and take out the bee boxes and reduce the hive down to one box (I had to start with two boxes since I’m using shallows), which went mostly easily, except when I came back a little later and found that one hive was swarming the removed bee package box…apparently the queen was attached to that. Sigh. So back the package box went into the hive. Then I also found that the ants (I really do hate ants!)  had broken through my cinammon border and had infested the syrup of the other hive. Sigh. So more cinammon was applied and today I need to create little oil moat around the bases.

The good news is that when I went into the hives to rearrange things yesterday I saw that one hive was already drawing out it’s honeycomb and filling it with the syrup, so with any luck and if I can keep the queen in the hives, we’ll have honey this summer!

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