How it all began…

The barrel on the right contained the hive.

Shortly after picking up my first two hives in 2010 I was notified of some bees living in a whiskey barrel located in brush pile that was days from being burnt.   I had no clue what I was doing, but with the help of my wife and father, I hived the bees that have driven me to the point of starting this blog.  Affectionately known in my household as the “Gerald Hive”.  There was something very different about this colony.

I wondered why this hive seemed to be more robust than the colonies that had come from packages.  I had read extensively from books and bee journals prior to getting started.  My question was how could this colony be surviving and thriving with no one getting into the hive to check brood patterns, do mite treatments, and provide supplemental feeding? Everything I had read up to that point told me this could not be.  I began to question everything.

Good brood patern for a feral queen.

Once I moved the hive to its stand  I only opened it once in June to place 3 shallow supers on top.  I then opened it on 8/22 to take the FULL supers off.  I did not arrange combs for them to go through the winter, treat them, or feed them.  Fast forward to the spring of 2011 and the Gerald Hive was still humming along.  It came through the winter covering six frames.  How could this be?

I decided to begin an experiment.  Allowing the bees living in my boxes to find their own way.  Keeping my interference to a minimum.  Interference to me includes feeding, swarm suppression, arranging frames for winter, frequent moving of hives, and opening the hive for no good reason other than my own morbid curiosity.  I will allow inferior colonies to expire, and  let superior ones propagate.  Whatever will bee will bee.

It didn’t look pretty, but I got the queen.

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2 Responses to How it all began…

  1. Rimantas says:

    Hi Jason,

    I have found your webpage while looking for the information on swarm trapping.

    How it all began in my case – I was investigating the issue of the diminishing apple tree harvest yields and the apple fruit deterioration in general (health, size, taste, etc.), and found vast amount of information on how bees help our gardens. As the only landplot I have acces to now is owned by the person terrified of bees, we agreed that we can keep some girls there if I could catch them:)
    At the moment I have no bees, and I am in the process of theoretical preparation for keeping them – reading books mostly, and some blogs.
    I find your site the most helpful out of many I have read during last year, and I totally agree on your idea of “let them bee”. I believe I will ask you more questions in the future, but I would like to start with this one, concerning this post:
    “It didn’t look pretty, but I got the queen.” – how did you lure her into the new house..? Did you use some scents, or honey, or..?
    And also what do you generally use to attract swarms – is it only lemon grass oil..?
    In Lithuania the most popular lure is Melissa oil, but maybe it is the same stuff, only called differently..

    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Good luck in the new season.

    • Jason says:

      how did you lure her into the new house..?
      Did you use some scents, or honey, or..?
      In that post it was just dumb luck. I cut that barrel apart and shook the bees into the hive. That was my very first cutout and looking back I think I did everything wrong that I possibly could have with the exception of one thing. I put 1 box of drawn out comb in the hive body. The way that I was certain I got the queen is because the hive did not die out on me. She began laying immediately because there was drawn comb for her to get started in. So the answer to that is that I got lucky.

      And also what do you generally use to attract swarms – is it only lemon grass oil..?
      I use lemon grass oil, but I read about Melissa oil and though I don’t have access to any right now the description sounds as if it is similar to lemon grass oil. Ever reference I have seen speaks of how bees find it irresistible. One of its unofficial names is Bee Balm. It grows in the north of Britain supposedly moved there by the Romans. I am going to see if I can get some of this stuff growing here in Indiana.

      The other thing I use and call bait is OLD BLACK BROOD COMB from deadout hives that expire over the winter. See – HOW I BAIT A SWARM TRAP.

      I don’t know if you have seen it yet, but I just posted some plans for swarm traps that can be made from a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood. I don’t know how plywood comes where you live, but you can reportedly make 4 traps from 1 sheet. The plans can be downloaded from my recent post New Swarm Trap Plans.

      Good luck and let me know how things go. If you have any questions ask… Thanks for reading.

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