How to Catch Swarms – Treatment-free Beekeeping Podcast

Listen to the Treatment-free Beekeeping Podcast episode where I talk about catching swarms:

Swarming is nearly upon us in Indiana, so I’m re-posting a link to the Treatment-Free Beekeeping Podcast – How to Catch Swarms with Solomon Parker.
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Swarm Traps – baiting and staging

swarm traps

Hanging Traps

All but 6 traps have been baited and staged, out of the way. You might be wondering, “why so early?” Bees won’t be swarming yet in Indiana.  To that I’d say, you are right, but there are TWO good reasons to get traps baited and staged a little early. Much of what you read today recommends beekeepers be reactionary as if the sky was always falling.  Beekeeping is more fun when you formulate a logical plan and see it through to a successful end. Understanding biology and having a logical plan is a strategy that is working for me and I think it will help you as well. So here’s what’s going on, and how it contributes to the PLAN.

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Swarm Trapping on the Survival Podcast – air date 9/31/2013

Swarm Season is approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, I can see that interest in the subject is growing from my Stats.  In the coming weeks I will be talking about some podcasts I have been on about Bees.  They will be posted in chronological order.  If you have some time and want to hear about trapping and treatment-free beekeeping give them a listen.

The Survival Podcast Episode – 1217 – On Capturing Wild Swarms
Air Date 9/31/2013

Episode-1217- Jason Bruns on Capturing Wild Swarms

In this podcast from 2013 I had been trapping for only a couple years.  I can hear the lack of confidence in some of my responses, but others surprised me with how inspired I had already become with trapping and observing the resulting colonies grow and become productive.  Several times, Jack questioned as to why I was doing different things.  This was was particularly true when asking about placing traps near known bee trees.  The reason I was doing it was because I didn’t know what would happen.  The experiments I was working on at that time led me to the methods I am currently using.

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Top Entrances – Inner Cover Modification 2017

ready for modification

Got some new inner covers from Brushy Mountain for the 8 frame colonies this year.  I have purchased the 10-frame version in the past and have always been happy with them.  I like to modify these inner covers to allow for a 5/16 inch top entrance that is protected by the a standard outer cover.  These inner covers allows for warm moist air to exit the the hive in the winter above the cluster.  Since converting from quilt boxes to this type of inner cover I have had much better success overwintering.  I also have observed far less bearding during summer for colonies that have these inner covers.

These are very similar to the covers I was building back in 2012.  (See Top Entrances from 5/22/2012)  After using those entrances I liked what they did for bees, but they had a down side.  Ants love to build nests between top of those plywood inner covers and the bottom of the outer cover.  I then modified some standard inner covers.  This gave bees access to the space that the ants had previously been occupying.  A healthy colony is all that is needed to keep ants out when a standard inner cover is modified in this way.   Continue reading

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Ain’t no party like a wax moth party

They know the drill

This deep of Lang frames looked like an Adam’s Family Accordion.  It’s a sign of allowing something to happen that should have dealt with a long time ago.  This colony was struggling last fall and I thought it had lived long enough to be out of danger from wax moths.  I thought it had frozen hard enough to kill moths before this colony died.  As you can see I was wrong.  These frames had to be beaten out of the box with a mallet and the chickens went to work on them.

tool for removing comb from foundaitionless frames

The chickens have come to associate frames in their yard with wax worm treats.  I capture many swarms every year.  Not all of them can make it.  I watch for failing colonies in late summer, but wax moths move in quickly that time of year.  If the damage is bad enough the frames go to the chickens.  When using foundationless frames in the brood chamber problems like these are greatly simplified.  The chickens will either remove the damaged comb searching for Worms or it can easily cut out using a cold capping knife.  Any excess comb or propolis is then scraped off with a hive tool and the frames are ready for service. Continue reading

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Frame Rehab

Old frames now foundationless

Re-working old frames can be tedious, especially if you attempt to put new foundation in them. This task is greatly simplified by switching to foundationless. The most difficult part is getting the old comb and foundation out of the frame. After that the wedge board is removed, rotated 90 degrees, and nailed back to the top bar. The majority of excess wax should be scraped from the frame, but after that it is ready to go back into a bee hive.  It does NOT have to be perfectly clean.

I have hundreds of deep frames out there and only a fraction of them have foundation in them anymore. For some reason many regard the use of foundationless frames as an advanced beekeeping topic. Nothing could be further from the truth. As with everything in beekeeping there will be times that observed results may vary. I have had boxes get cross combed while using foundationless frames, but the vast majority of colonies take to them quite well. In my use of foundationless frames there are a couple of rules that when followed give good results, at least in the brood chamber.

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Big Weekend

One of my favorite songs by Tom Petty is from his Highway Companion album. It’s called Big Weekend and years ago I might have desired a weekend like the one described in the song. I’m a little more dedicated to practical matters these days and a BIG WEEKEND is one that I get a lot accomplished.

I need a BIG WEEKEND; Kick up the dust
I need a BIG WEEKEND; If you don’t run you RUST!

Last weekend was a BIG WEEKEND around here. For the last two months I have been preparing for the coming season. Everything has been assembled now it’s time for the horrible job of painting. Painting is a facet of beekeeping I don’t particularly like. It’s right up there with frame building. The fact that I dislike both of these procedures increases my desire to do a good job when I am working on these tasks. If done correctly both frame building and painting lead to years of product use without the need for maintenance. Doing things right the first time is efficient especially when you dislike the task.  By getting this stuff out of the way I can focus on the fun part of beekeeping, CATCHING SWARMS!

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My name is Jason, and I’m addicted to swarm trapping

R.I.P. – 1517

I am beginning to realize that I have a problem.  Every time I see weathered bee equipment I have an incredible urge to build a Swarm Trap.  I am powerless to overcome it…..  I’m addicted!  I am quickly becoming the crazy-cat-lady of swarm traps!  If you haven’t experienced the joy of trapping swarms you may not understand my addiction.  There is no negative consequence to submitting to peer pressure here.  If you try it and have success you will become hope-FULLY addicted to trapping swarms.

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Check Your Wooden-ware

Tried to order stuff from Kelley’s again and had the same issue as last year.  The mill-work on this wooden-ware is poor compared to standard Langstroth boxes I have received from Brushy Mountain and Mann Lake.  I always purchase either commercial or budget grade hive bodies which ever is available and cheapest.  I’m not into select grade because I know this stuff is all going to have a lifespan and towards the end everything will eventually be re-purposed into CatchBoxes or Swarm Traps.

Truth in advertising:
Above are some deep boxes that I ordered last winter to help a friend meet their $150 minimum order for free shipping. As you can see from the picture I disagree with statement:

COMMERCIAL GRADE: Our commercial grade woodenware is manufactured from Eastern White Pine. These boxes have some tight knots and blemishes, but the workmanship and fit are still first quality.  (https://www.kelleybees.com/Shop/34/Hives-Components/Deeps-and-Supers/4600/Deep-Hive-Bodies)

NOTE crack in rabbet

In February 2016 when I experienced this same issue (See Box-Building Tips) I tried to put one box together without chiseling out the sloppy cuts.  This resulted in the rabbet joint splitting out on the box ends.  Then I had to spend more time fixing that!  After seeing it happen and knowing how many I had to do I was annoyed.  The process of clearing 3/4″ of slop from each side of every board isn’t hard, but it’s definitely and extra step and adds time to assembly.  I sent an e-mail to Kelley Beekeeping about the issue.  Nothing was requested, no refund, no free crap, just that they should know so others wouldn’t have this same issue.  There was no response, and either I issued the only complaint, or they just didn’t care.

Luckily I only had to chisel out four boxes (8-16.25″ box ends) this February instead of 50 (98-16.25″ box ends!!).  Remember….. I put the ONE together without chiseling.  Just remember there are a lot of different sources for wooden-ware out there.  I have never had an issue with other suppliers.  Actually I’ve never had a problem with any other products purchased from Kelley’s, but this has been consistent the last two years from the same supplier.

Where have you been getting your wooden-ware?
Have you happy with the quality and cut?
If so where are you getting good mill-work from?

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Robbing 3 –> Obtain ferals and LetMBee

If you’re reading this and you haven’t read Robbing can teach us about honeybees or Robbing – 2: What do you do? you might want to start there.  Just to summarize, last time I came home from work to a robbing episode.  Two colonies were being selectively targeted for robbing while one feral colony was left alone.

Robbing Observations

2010-07-07-0113-1003-1005-1004

7/7/2010 – 1003

The robbers looked different than my packages from Kelley’s Beekeeping Co. in 2010. They were closer in coloration and size to 1005, the feral colony from the barrel cutout. I’ve read that robbing bees are usually older foragers and can appear darker because of hair loss.  The difference was greater than some missing hair.  They were phenotypically different.  They were darker in color, and noticeably smaller in size. Where where they coming from?  I sat down on the ground and observed the horizon. Soon I could see the course of incoming and outgoing bees and had a bearing on the source of activity. All traffic pointed toward one corner of a woods about 1/2 mile South-East of the home apiary. After reducing entrances, I went to the woods and found the colony by sound. They were in a tree BUZZING with excitement and definitely NOT getting robbed.  It was like a raucous party celebrating the plunder of their competitors.

I believe this is playing out every Fall among the feral population. This is why the feral population somehow overcame varroa.  Better adapted colonies, out-compete those lesser suited to the niche.  It keeps the Feral Reserve lean, finding the solutions to adaptation in the environment. That’s why it’s a great source for your bees!   The Feral Reserve is hanging with the challenges of today. Those are the lines YOU want for tomorrows struggles. When less adapted colonies are “snuffed out”, cavities are vacant for the following Spring’s swarms.  The robbed resources are insurance for better adapted colonies to overwinter.   Continue reading

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