It’s time to give a little progress report for summer 2016. This year has been the most successful trapping summer YET. The first swarm was caught almost A FULL MONTH earlier than normal on 4/20/2016. HITS occurred steadily 3-5 per week through April and May. After being stuck on 29 for two weeks I finally picked up Trapped Swarm #30 Saturday 7/2/2016. Thirty swarms before the 4th of July is a new benchmark that I will probably aim for in the future.
Each year spent trapping is educational. You learn much more about bees than if you just order a packages through the mail. What have I learned this year?
- Over time if you are observant your pattern-recognition will improve, leading to higher trapping success rates at newly selected locations. Traps placed in new SPOTS have been very productive thus far this year. Several have produced 3-4 colonies of bees EACH. So always be looking for new SPOTS and experimenting with them.
- You cannot rest on established trapping sites even if they have produced in the past. One of my most productive SPOTS over the last 4 or 5 years has failed to produce a viable swarm in 2016! I have no idea why that is. This is why you always need to be searching for locations that might hold feral colonies. There is huge variability in blooming just in my region. Traveling around I noticed this year that the Black Locust bloomed much better in some places than in others. I hypothesize this variability happens with other nectar crops as well all over my region.
- There are trapping locations that are more prone to problems than others. I have a SPOT that has shown me how nasty things can get. Two traps located on that property were occupied, but not by bees. One became a home for a huge Formica ant colony while the other had a mouse nest in it. Both were essentially OUT OF COMMISSION only 2 weeks after being depoloyed. I have pictures of the ant colony so there will be a future post about it. Form a plan to check your traps periodically to make sure they aren’t occupied by something besides Apis mellifera.
- As soon as you have pollen entering a trap MOVE IT! Put another one up in its place. This year I’ve had many traps occupied THE DAY AFTER they were swapped out!
- Select your Trap Hosts carefully! A host that will alert you of HITS is worth a lot since you don’t need to spend time and money driving around doing blind checks. If they have a cell phone and will send text-messages, ALL THE BETTER! Many times I get pictures with these texts, and in some cases even video of HITs. Remember to let these people know you appreciate them. I give honey to trap hosts. Form a lasting relationship with them.
- CatchBoxes are a great method for starting new outyards! I started 2 this year. After setting the stands I left baited CatchBoxes at both locations. Both caught local bees prior to me bringing anything to the location. I see this as a great development for several reasons. First, I KNOW THERE ARE BEES THERE! Secondly it will give me an indication of the vigor of local bees compared to bees I bring in from other locations. I’m always evaluating how colonies do based upon sourcing location. I have found that there is generally a consistency in vigor based upon trapping location.
- Swarm trapping helps you evaluate how productive your region of the country is during any particular year as well as pockets of production in your trapping range. As a beekeeper it’s your business to know things like when major nectar flows are occurring. Trapping gives great insight into this. Basic bee knowledge tells that flows lead to swarming as nectar is packed into the brood nest and there’s no place for the queen to lay. When traps STOP taking hits there’s a good chance that the nectar flow has ceased. Swarm trapping makes you a more observant beekeeper, capable of making better management decisions.
I vet my trap and hive hosts very carefully. Not only do I need to trust them, but they also need to be able to trust me. I have placed traps in 4 locations this year where people claim allergy to bees. Though hesitant, in all cases I was able to convince the potential hosts that bees are not plotting to kill them. A swarm coming in looks like something from a horror movie, but all they want to do is find a HOME. Bees in swarm mode will not be aggressive, at least in my part of the country unless provoked. Any time you have an apprehensive trap host assure them that you will remove the bees as soon as possible and do so. This is one scenario where I will remove a swarm before pollen is going into the trap. Even those afraid of bees are interested to see swarms. Bee allergy is another topic scheduled for a future post.
As I have said many times before, once people see how cool Swarm Trapping is they want to become more involved. They get observant, begin to ask really good questions, and tell ALL THEIR FRIENDS and RELATIVES about the wonderful experience they were lucky enough to see. Afterwards those friends and relatives will want traps at their house. My friend Matt and his wife, Ashley were so excited about seeing their first swarm he called his parents and had them rush over to observe the spectacle. This is my first year trapping there and I’ve bagged 4 swarms. I am 100%confident that there will be NO opposition to trapping there next year.
I have been doing more frequent updates on the LetMBee Facebook Page. If you LIKE that page you will get updates as they occur. Typically less in-depth updates are posted there, like pictures of bees working different flowers, my late night swarm trap pickups as well as news articles that relate to beekeeping.
There are only a few weeks of trapping left. I am currently at 32 swarms as of this posting, but have been getting scouting activity in many locations. What will the final count be? I will keep you posted. Thanks for reading
Questions / Comments