Getting some interest from the bees

As previously mentioned, we lost last year’s colony in a bad snowstorm, and we’ve had lots of people asking if we’re planning to get more bees. Absolutely we are, but we’re hoping to get them in the same method – by luring a swarm rather than purchasing them.

You can buy bees – it’s about $250 for a package that contains a queen, about 10,000 bees, and 4 frames they’re already started working on. But why spend the money when you can get free bees? Last year it worked pretty well, so we thought we’d try again.

In the meantime, I busied myself with building a shed for my beekeeping supplies with some old lumber I had lying around.

So, I set up a bunch of empty hives around our backyard to see if we could catch one. A few weeks ago, we got some interest around the box that was the main brood box for last year’s colony. That’s not surprising given that it already had honey, pollen, and quite a bit of drawn comb on the frames. We had some scouts checking out the box for a couple of days, and then they disappeared. They must have found someplace better.

Last week though, it started up again, but this time more interest. Since last Friday, we’ve seen more and more bees showing up.

They become hard to count when they’re all buzzing around, but I think we’re getting about 20-30 scouts at times. Some seem to be still sizing up the box, measuring, checking whether or not it’s suitable. Others seem to have decided it’s perfect and have begun preparing for a swarm. We’ve seen them taking old wax out, dragging out old bees, chasing away ants (sometimes picking them up and throwing them down to the ground).

Also, it seems there might be two colonies fighting over the space because we occasionally see bees fighting, which they wouldn’t do if they were from the same hive.

We’re also seeing some bees show up seemingly to feed the scout bees who are sticking around longer to clean things up.

A few nights ago, we decided to open up the hive to see what was going on. It’s pretty safe because there’s no colony there yet, and generally, scouts go home at night and return the next morning. Some may stay until morning though, and that’s what happened. We saw a lone scout by herself still working away well after dark.

Looking at the frames, it looks like they’re cleaning them up – they were pretty damaged from uncapping and spinning the honey out of them in the extractor. Also, whatever honey remained in the brood box was still there, so they’re not robbing the hive. They seem to be intending to move in.

However, this is the slowest move-in period I’ve heard of. Typically you’ll see scouts and within a day or two, the swarm comes. We’re almost at a week now – still no colony has installed itself. We’ve had some very windy days and some rainy days, so that might be putting them off. Who knows.

For now, we just wait around for them. It’s exciting, but also a bit tiresome when you expect a swarm every day, and it doesn’t come. So, stay tuned. I’m going to do my best to get some video and pictures when they do move in – it’s quite the event.

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