So! I had the best experience today! We have a land-trust near us, where a bunch of families bought some land back in 70s and created this great community garden-park place. It's kinda hippyish, but really beautiful and a neat enclave in the middle of the city. We do creative workshops and things with them, and last night we had a party there. It's several acres with a lake, lots of gardens, chickens and a neat ampitheatre with a firepit. Very cool place. While I was there I met Charlie who is the caretaker. He told me they have a hive there, but the guy who was caring for it went to China last summer and no one has been into the hive since then. I told him that I wasn't very experienced but that I'd be happy to look at it. He was really happy and I was going to go over this afternoon.
Well, about noon I get a call from him and he tells me he just watched the hive swarm and it was hanging on a tree in the neighbors yard. I got sooo excited and rushed right over. It wasn't a huge swarm, a little bigger than a grapefruit, maybe like a grapefruit and a navel orange. But is was on a branch you could reach from the ground. He had some wooden ware but no foundation, so I went home and got some foundation and my veil (and my smoker iddee! :D ) and went back. We cobbled together the frames with some of the foundation and some drawn comb that he had cleaned off of an empty top bar they had. The foundation wasn't the right kind for the frames, and he didn't have any nails or anything, but we did the best we could. They also had 2 queen excluders.
So what we did was put an excluder on the bottom, our cobbled together frames with some foundation and the drawn out comb in the deep box he had. We left 2 frames out to knock the swarm into (we probably didn't need to do this, but I told him he could tie or rubber band more of the drawn comb and add those frames tomorrow). Then we went and got the swarm! One guy cut the branch and Charlie held the box up under them. I bonked the branch against the box and they plopped in! I then brushed in the rest of the bees. The bees that had started flying immediately started crawling into the box, which I think means we got the queen!! We put the box on a table and put a second queen excluder on top. Then we covered it up and left it.
I told Charlie to wait until just after sundown and then he could move it into his yard - which is about 50 feet away? and to put a branch in front of it so they could orient. I went back by about an hour ago, and there are bees going in and out and it looks like a regular hive no sign of a swarm or re-clumping anywhere around.
I had soooooo much fun and it was probably the most exciting thing I've done in a while. We of course garnered an audience of neighbors and I was able to answer all the questions they asked !!! :D. But of course now I have a gazillion of my own!
First, did I give sound advice about moving the hive? Will they get disoriented since where they want to keep the hive was only 50 feet from where we captured the swarm?
2. I have never even seen a queen excluder before, but it seemed like a good idea to use them since they had them, to help keep the queen in. Was this ok? how long till we can take them off?
3. I looked quickly at the original hive but couldn't get very deep because I was running out of time. This hive is a deep, a medium, a queen excluder and then another medium. The top medium was empty, just foundation that had been chewed a little and was all flopping everywhere. We removed the excluder and the frames underneath looked well and truly a mess! They are all combed together and packed. We straightened the foundation in the empty medium the best we could and put it back on without the queen excluder. I'm thinking because the queen couldn't move up they got too crowded and that is why they are swarming. Charlie thought this might be the second time they swarmed and that he didn't recognize what it was the first time. Was removing the excluder the right thing to do?
I am going back next Saturday with all my gear to check on the new swarm and really get into the original one to try and get it cleaned up some. I was thinking that would be a good time to remove the other excluders from the swarm box.
I am so freaking excited about this. Charlie says I can come anytime. They haven't treated the bees at all as far as he knows and they sure look healthy! I only saw a couple of SHB even with the empty frames. So now I may have 3 hives to play with, even though 2 don't belong to me!! YAY!!
Anyway, thanks for reading. I know I post waaaay tooo much information, but I am soo darn excited I can't help it :D. I cannot tell you guys how grateful I was today and am right now for this board, because I actually felt pretty well prepared and a little knowledgeable about what I was doing, and I hope you will tell me what I messed up and how to fix it. Thank you soo much!! Happy Happy Sunday!