Beekeeper’s Corner May 2018

By Gerald Przybylski

Jerry has been an East-Oakland beekeeper since 2011; local bees preferred.

Spring/Summer management:
* DO keep your water source filled. We all need to provide a water source for our bees. Some city and county ordinances require it. Keep your water source full until it starts raining again in the fall.
Keep a bait-hive/swarm-trap in your yard to attract the swarm your colonies may produce.
You may even attract a swarm from the neighborhood.  Set up your dead-outs as bait-hives.
Many of us have attracted swarms to our yard already.
Split your hive(s) before going on vacation if you think your hive may swarm while you’re traveling. If your split doesn’t succeed, recombine when you get home.  Save the neighbors the stress of a swarm while you’re away.
What to do if a swarm moves into your trap:
* If you discover the swarm the day it moves into your trap, move the colony that night to your hive-stand.
Once the bees imprint on the location of the trap,  move the colony a foot or two per day until it’s on your hive-stand. A wagon or cart, or even a wheelbarrow can make this move relatively painless.
If you have to move a colony more than 100 feet and less than a mile, and need to do it quickly, relocate the hive a couple of miles away (as the crow flies) from BOTH locations for a week… then move it back to the destination.
*If you have a weak colony, or one with an attitude problem, use the swarm to “re-queen” it by doing a paper-combine with the swarm. If the weak colony obviously has an inferior queen, and you can find her, then “pinch her” before doing the combine.
If you don’t “pinch” either queen, then the bees may select the survivor based on the strength of her pheromones.  If the choice matters, don’t leave things to chance.
Splitting tip:
* Crowded hives feed queen cells more heavily than sparsely populated hives. So arrange the split so that the queen-less with only brood box(es), has mostly capped brood, and is packed with bees.
* Four days after splitting, look for queen cells. With luck you’ll have some nice ones. Capped queen cells four-days after splitting were started with day 2 or day 3 larva, so they’ll make inferior queens. Uncapped queen cells were started with eggs or first-day larva; they are the better ones.
If there are uncapped queen cells, leave them alone, and damage capped queen cells.  Cross fingers.
Once queen cells are capped, you can put honey supers back on the hive.
With splits, since bees start with larva rather than eggs, Day-15 is Eleven days after splitting (one week after looking at queen cells).
Day 14 and Day 15 queen cells can safely be moved to other hives.
A frame with queen cells can be moved to another hive to “re-queen” it.
If the bees built the queen cells in wax foundation, they can be carefully cut from the frame and “wedged” between frames in a hive or mating-nuc.
Advice for newbies… Read up on it and try it out, whatever you want to try. If you succeed, great! If you don’t succeed, identify your mistakes, and try it again the next time the time seems right. Discuss your plans and your missteps with more experienced beekeepers. Look for the beekeepers with the bee vests at the meeting. They’re mentors who will be glad to chat with you.