Bee Management and Honey Production.
Honey production starts with capturing your bees. Here is one of our swarm captures. We have found several swarms over the years on our young olive trees. It makes for a relatively easy way to increase our hive number. We are very small and, generally, produce enough honey for our own use.
If you are contemplating having a try at your own honey production, there are many short bee courses. There is much to learn and experience and a course is a great way to gain some confidence handling these magnificent creatures.
The courses are, generally, run by very experienced operators. Their experience gives them the skill to handle the bees with much confidence. It is important to respect their experience and the learners’ inexperience. I have come across a couple of hives where they have gone from being relatively calm one year to being very aggressive another. It is of concern that an inexperienced apiarist could be handling their bees without full protection. If I had not been wearing gloves when I came across these angry hives, the consequences would have been severe.
Why do bees swarm?
European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) naturally inhabit hollow tree trunks and branches. As they fill the cavity, the queen signals for some queen cells to be developed. Just prior to the new queens hatching, the old queen takes some of the worker bees and they swarm. When you may see them hanging from a branch, they are waiting for their scouts to return with directions to their new home. Their main concern is to form a protective layer around the queen, who will be in the middle of the swarm.
Back at the old hive, the first queen cell to hatch promptly kills the other queen cells and she takes over the reign. She then does her mating flight to another hive area and finds several males to mate with. After that, she is back to her hive for a life of egg laying until she feels the need to swarm. And so on.
This is a completely natural event. However, in managed hives, this can be reduced by “increasing the size of their cavity” i.e. by providing another super (the top boxes for honey production) or by removing their buildup of honey. Swarm management is important as, when hives swarm they are placing greater demands on the natural ecosystem for hollows, nector and pollen. This displaces natural critters such as honeyeaters, gliders and native insects and creates a potential biosecurity hazard for pest and diseases.
Swarm Bait Box
You could expect a success rate of around 50%. Keep persevering. The box has better chances out in the apiary than in the shed!
This is a Langstroth hive. I am carefully brushing off the bees with a soft hair brush so I can take it back to the honey room for extracting.
When we are back to the honey room, we use a hot knife to slice the caps off the comb. This lets the honey flow out when we spin the frame in the extractor.
A consequence of bee husbandry.
I was actually doing some fencing and was at least, 6m from one of our hives. A worker came out of the hive to investigate what I was doing. I backed off, but, she kept coming. Then, she gave her life defending the hive and stung me on the edge of my nostril. The top of my face from my top lip reacted with my cheeks, eyes and ears. I spent the next day resting up! I was one big puff-ball.