Just a couple of more pictures showing that as the temperatures have reached the triple digits the cluster on the outside of the hive has gotten larger.
A Skeptical Look at Natural Beekeeping June 28, 2012
As I’ve previously stated, I’ve based what I’m doing on the “Natural Beekeeping” movement. This is,
of course, an oxymoron, since keeping bees is not natural. The spirit of the movement however, is the same spirit as a lot of natural and organic activities, namely working as much as possible in harmony with nature and looking for ecologically friendly and sustainable methods. That sounds just wonderful in a Disneyesque kind of way, and I’m fine with that.
As someone that also calls himself a skeptic I feel that I should acknowledge the fact that much of the Natural Beekeeping Doctrine is based on conjecture and speculation, not hard science. Beliefs about chemical resistant parasites and viruses, the negative effects of pesticides, the dangers of monoculture, transporting hives, and hive design and management are all hotly debated topics that do not have clear, definitive scientific answers.
I tend to believe most of what is being said; That over treating of hives with drugs and chemicals ends up creating tougher threats and weaker bees, That the over use of pesticides on our crops and plants poses a danger to the ecosystem, and bees in particular, and that commercial beekeeping practices that seek to maximize honey production by forcing bees to behave in certain ways is bad for the health of the hives. But these are just beliefs based on others’ opinions and anecdotes.
Overall, the veracity of the claims are of secondary importance to me. I am a beekeeper because I enjoy it, and I will practice beekeeping in a way that brings me the most satisfaction. Much the same reason as I support organic farming and gardening, even though objectively I understand that it isn’t always a clear cut fact that it is “better” than large scale commercial farming. It is about community and lifestyle and feeling a connecting with something bigger than myself (go ahead with your jokes on that last bit).
From things I have read on various forums and websites it seems that there is quite a bit of bad blood between many of the more contemporary beekeepers and the new crop of natural beekeepers. I’ve not experienced much of this directly, though I have had a couple of people tell me that I’m doing it wrong.
Natural beekeepers seem to feel that the traditional beekeepers are greedy villains, interested in exploiting bees to turn a profit, and the environment be damned. Traditional beeks look at the natural beeks as a bunch of hippie dreamers that allow hives to go wild and spread diseases and parasites.
It is a shame that more people aren’t willing to listen to one another and find some common ground. Colony Collapse Disorder and the plagues of pests that threaten bees should be a clear signal that something is wrong. Whether it is the result of decades of unsustainable practices, or an inevitable change in the environment, bee colonies are in trouble and something needs to be done. The solutions may well be found in natural beekeeping movement, and the old school should really be willing to take a look and see if any of the new (or at least newly popular) methods might have some merit. On the other hand, Those old school beekeepers have a lot of knowledge and experience that only working hives for a long time can bring. We shouldn’t immediate dismiss their practices and opinions as wrong. It is relatively easy for me as a hobbyist to say that I’m not going to treat my bees for some disease in the hopes that more disease-resistant bees will evolve from this decision. That isn’t such an easy decision for someone whose whole livelihood and ability to support their family depends on the bees continued survival.
Sorry for the long rambling post. I’ve felt that my adherence to the idea of “Natural Beekeeping” was somewhat at odds with the skeptical lens I tend to apply to many other areas of my life. I’ve always been a bit of a closet tree-hugger, and don’t apologize for that fact, but I thought I would at least explain it. I also hate to see such polarization in a community that should be working together towards a common goal. Ultimately it serves no purpose and will only slow down progress towards practical solutions. When you open a conversation with someone by telling them everything they are doing is wrong and insulting them, they aren’t going to be terribly receptive to anything else you have to say. A bit of tact and respect can go a long way.
Hanging out on the Hive June 25, 2012
The summer is shaping up to be a long hot one. Very little rain and a lot of days in the 90′s, and even some hitting triple digits.
My last inspection indicated that things were going well with both my hives, new brood and lots of honey. I hope to do another inspection soon, and maybe even harvest some honey if the stores have continued to increase. We are in a severe drought, but despite that fact I still see lots of wildflowers in bloom, so the bees seem to be doing all right with their foraging. Of course, with top bar hives you have to be careful when you do an inspection. In weather this hot the comb is really soft and can fall apart if you disturb it.
The bees like to keep the temperature inside the hive in the mid 90′s. The temperature has to be kept in the correct range or development of the brood may be impacted. And too high of temperatures can even cause the comb to melt and collapse. To keep the hive cool during hot summer days large numbers of bees will exit the hive and hang on the outside of the hive. Many may even fan their wings at the entrance to improve ventilation. This called “bearding” and can be an indication of an over crowded hive, but may also mean they are simply too hot.
My first hive beards frequently, though I rarely see the second one do so. The second hive does have a screened bottom, and even though I keep the cover bottom board installed, I imagine that it still gets more ventilation that way. Its white aluminum roof may also help it stay cooler. Of course, this is give and take, because staying cooler may be good in the middle of the summer, but can make it challenging for the bees to maintain a warm enough temperature in the fall and winter.
There are a lot of bees hanging out under the edge of the roof by the entrances. There are also a lot of bees that hang out under the hive on one end where my lack of carpentry skill have left a gap big enough for bees to pass through. I was originally going to try and fix this, but it seemed that the bees were using it as a second entrance, so I left it be. They could choose to seal it up with propolis, but didn’t, so I think it may help provide some ventilation. A spider had built a web in the area and caught a few bees so I removed it.
I usually let spiders and ants bee, unless I find them inside the hive or they build a web across the entrance. I’ve wondered if maybe allowing them to coexist with the bees might actually deter other more harmful bugs like wax moths and hive beetles.
Over all both hives seem to to be doing well. If we actually get some rain I can see them really going crazy as everything blooms.
One Year, 2 Hives May 29, 2012
It’s the end of May, which means I’ve been doing this for just over a year. My biggest accomplishment to date is getting two hives through the mildest winter on record. Not exactly a stunning achievement, but I’m relatively pleased my one starter hive did well enough to split into 2 and both are still buzzing.
Early inspections this year showed very little honey in either hive. I did not harvest any from them last year (save about a 2 inch square of honeycomb so I could sample it) and I’m glad I left them plenty of food. I made a couple of attempts at putting jars of syrup out for them, but this was largely ignored. With the unseasonably warm weather we had an early bloom of many trees, and the bees were busy stripping the nectar from my willow for several days.
Things seemed to be going well and the population in my first hive exploded, quickly doubling in size. I soon saw queen cells being built and figured a swarm was inevitable. I don’t really have room for a third hive, so I was just going to let them swarm and contribute to the stock of feral bees in the area. As long as they didn’t go somewhere that annoyed the neighbors I figured it would be a good thing. One of my neighbors a couple of houses down had been following my endeavors and asked if he built a hive if he could get some of the bees from me. I said sure, but do it quick because I think they will swarm in the next few days. I gave him the plans for the hive I had built and some instructions for the bar size. The next day when I got home from work he showed up with some strange cross between a Langstroth and a TBH. He used two rectangular boxes stacked on top of each other, each containing a series of square frames. He had been exposed to beekeeping in the past and wasn’t sure the TBH was the way to go, so had built something different. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn’t just move over a few bars of brood and bees for him but instead we had to perform a rather messy chop job. We cut comb from the top bars of my hive, cut them down in size so they would fit, and wired them onto his frames with bailing wire. I made sure that a few queen cells remained in both hives, so ultimately it wouldn’t matter where the queen ended up, though I thought she was most likely still in my hive.
When all was said and done I didn’t think he had enough bees in his hive to make it. He kept the box in his yard for a few days and I did see bees flying in and out of it, though not a lot. He then took it out to a friend of his property that has 80 acres, mostly covered with clover, and he tells me the hive is doing really well. I need to go take a look and see how they are building on his frames.
My hives though seemed to have some issues after this. A couple of weeks later when I checked my bees it appeared the population in both hives had declined, there was no capped brood and no larva that I could see, and very little honey. This was occurring in both hives, so it wasn’t simply the result of a poorly executed split. I made some hard candy and put that in the hives, which the first hive quickly devoured, the second barely touched it. I kept an eye on them and a couple of weeks later an inspection once again showed no brood cells. There were more queen cells, but without eggs and larva there was very little chance of rearing a new queen. I’ve heard theories that they can rob other hives for eggs or larva in an emergency, or that it is even possible for an unfertilized egg to develop into a female with a full set of chromosomes, but the opinions and evidence for these things are mixed.
I figured something must have happened to the queens and that the hives were probably doomed. I know a neighbor two houses to the south of me has been liberally spraying his yard and the one between use with pesticides, and I wondered if the wind had maybe carried enough over to do the hives in. However on Memorial Day when I did another check I found a good deal of capped honey in both hives, and at least a couple of bars with some capped brood. I stopped my inspections there, not wanting to disturb them if they were recovering. My wife spotted what may have been a queen in the second hive, but I never got a clear enough look to be sure.
It would appear that both hives are actually doing ok. After an initial early bloom we had a long dry spell and that may have contributed to low nectar flow and maybe the hives reacted naturally by stopping laying eggs for a while. Now the clover and a bunch of wildflowers are blooming in the area they may be ramping back up. It is also possible the hives are truly queenless and I’m seeing the work of laying workers. A closer inspection of the eggs should be able to answer if it is a queen or a worker laying them. My eyesight is beginning to fade just a bit and I have not yet gotten glasses, so I was unable to get a clear view of the eggs. My wife took some pictures, so I can review them and see if that reveals anything. But the bees seem to be going on about their business as normal and or very docile. I guess only time will tell.
The other thing revealed by the inspection was that there were very few Small Hive Beetles in the hives. I saw one or two in each hive, so the threat is not gone, but the bees seem to be keeping them in check.
Still Alive So Far February 12, 2012
Just in case anyone wonders if I’ve given this up yet, the answer is no.
It’s just that there really isn’t much for a small scale beekeeper to do over the winter. You pretty much close up the hives (not completely, I leave one entrance open), put a little insulation under the roofs, and sit back and hope they survive the winter. Admittedly, we haven’t had much of a winter here. It has been unseasonably warm and almost no snow. Now, in the middle of February we are having a cold snap and there is something of a winter storm on the way, but over all this has been the winter that wasn’t. On several of the warm days we’ve had I’ve seen the bees flying. The original hive always seems to have a lot of activity going on. The second hive seems a bit more lethargic. That may have to do with location. The first hive gets more sunlight, so it warms up earlier and stays warm longer. I put some sugar in top feeders for both hives in the fall. When I did this in the first hive they ate a lot of it. Then I refilled it for the first hive, and added a feeder to the second hive, and it doesn’t appear that either of them touched the sugar after that. I eventually removed the top feeder form the second hive because it interfered with how the roof fit. Last week it was warm enough for the bees to be active for several days in a row so I put out a jar of sugar syrup for them, but neither hive showed any interest. I did witness them returning the hive with thick clumps of pollen on their legs, so they were visiting some kind of blooming plant somewhere, though I have no idea what was blooming in the middle of January. The weather has been so mild that I’ve seen several plants begin to bud and sprout, but hadn’t seen anything in full bloom yet.
So that is where things are. Both hives are still alive so far. We are having a bit of cold weather now, but it has generally been dry which seems to be the most important factor as bees can generally deal with the cold as long as they don’t get wet. Apparently Small hive Beetle eggs don’t survive low humidity conditions either, so I’m hoping maybe the long dry spell over winter will have done them in, but that’s probably too much to ask for. Hopefully they will make it the next month until spring hits. I’m hoping the warm weather followed by this hard freeze hasn’t wiped out too many of the early blooming plants and we will have good spring growth to feed them.
I considered the possibility of ordering another package of bees in case neither of my hives survived the winter, but I decided I didn’t have the extra money to spend. Also, I don’t know that I really have a good place to put a third hive, so if both hives survived then I had a bunch of bees that would need a home. I am planning on building another hive, and a couple of small bait hives or nucs just in case I come up with more bees or an opportunity to place a hive somewhere.
Now I’m just awaiting spring when I can do a more thorough check on the health of the hives and hopefully watch them thrive and grow well into the fall.
Small Hive Beetle Confirmed September 16, 2011
The entomologists at K-State have confirmed that I do indeed have Small Hive Beetle, one of the first confirmed cases in KS it turns out.
The question now is what do I do about it, and after a lot of initial panic, I think the best answer may be “nothing.”
I’ve seen less than a half dozen beetles in each hive, and they’ve always had a bee chasing them. I’ve seen a couple of larvae, both being wrestled out of the hive by the bees. I’ve seen no damage to comb or slime from the larva in my inspections. So, it appears that the bees may well be on top of the situation without my help. The best thing I can probably do is just quit disturbing the hive, which gives the beetles the opportunity to out maneuver their bee guards and lay eggs in the comb where real harm may be done. With fall approaching and weather turning colder I’ve already decided it is time to quit opening the hive because I want to give them the chance to seal things up for the winter. I added a couple of top feeders (little more than plastic bins with some holes drilled in them and attached to a top bar) so I can feed them in the colder weather without opening the hive proper.
At some point I have to decide how dedicated I am to the whole “natural beekeeping” idea. I’ve already broken down and started using a smoker, though that was a practical decision. If the bees became hyper agitated whenever I opened the hive and became a threat to the neighbors, my beekeeping activities wouldn’t last long, and hundreds died stinging me (fortunately only about a score penetrated my protective clothing). So smoke is a tradeoff that keeps things a bit under control. Some colonies are able to deal with Small Hive Beetle on their own, and the proper thing to do may be to simply let nature take its course. If my bees can keep them in check then great, if not, it might be better to let them die out rather than perpetuate the problem. That sounds harsh, but considering how many pests and parasites have been able to take hold in the North American bee population due to poor breeding and overuse of chemical treatments, it may be the best course of action.
Assuming the hives make it through the winter I may re-evaluate at that point. I’m still considering the use of beneficial nematodes to feed on the larvae since it doesn’t appear that insects develop resistance to nematodes like they may to insecticides.
Attack of the Beetles September 6, 2011
I took advantage of the beautiful weather over Labor Day Weekend to check on the second hive and clean up some of the broken comb from the original split and some cross comb that had been built since. All in all the hive looks to be in good health, though I am concerned they don’t have enough honey stores for the winter. I’m not experienced enough to say for sure, and the fact that the honeycomb is mixed with brood comb makes it difficult to accurately judge just how much is there. I’m not terribly worried though because we seem to be having a nice fall bloom of lots of wildflowers now and I see bees returning to the hive with lots of fluffy white pollen on their legs. I’m also planning on building a top feeder for them so I can easily feed sugar or syrup without actually opening the hive. This will allow me to feed them regularly as we head into cold weather if I’m concerned they don’t have food stores for the winter.
The bigger issue at the moment is that I found about a half dozen small beetles running about as I was checking things. Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is a relatively new pest to this area, but is has been devastating to hives in some areas where it has taken hold. Of course, they say that a healthy hive is the best defense against these, and I don’t think they are adapted well to cold climates, so my hope is that the Kansas Winter will wipe these things out.
I’m not completely sure that these are indeed SHB, they could just be another type of small beetle attracted to the honey in the hive and not pose a major threat, but from the pictures I’ve looked at, they seem to really resemble SHB. Fortunately, Kansas State University is an Agricultural School and they offer free insect and plant identification services, with a local county extension just a few miles away. So tonight I captured a couple of the buggers and will be taking them in for positive identification.
I did not see any evidence of the damage caused by the larva of the beetles, and it may well be that the hive is strong enough to deal with them and the design of the top bar hive doesn’t give them good places to hide and breed. Even so, this is one case where I may resort to chemical pesticides because of the huge slimy mess these things can turn a hive into. I’ve been reading that some simple boric acid traps are fairly effective at killing them and do not have a large negative impact on the bees. The other possibility is that of nematodes. SHB larva pupate in the soil, so they leave the hive at that stage and burrow in to the dirt. Some researchers have reported promising results at using certain breeds of nematodes to attack the larva at this point. If the bees are mostly keeping the beetles under control this might be a chemical free way of giving them an edge in the battle by disrupting the life cycle of the beetles.
Time will tell.
August Feeding August 9, 2011
I haven’t felt like much of a beekeeper of late, as I haven’t actually done anything with the hives save look through the side windows for over a month. Since the split back in the middle of June it has been unseasonably hot and I haven’t wanted to disturb the comb for fear of it collapsing. I also didn’t want to disturb the bees more than I already have. I found a quote from the How-To-Do-It Book of Beekeeping by Richard Taylor that I thought was very appropriate for the situation:
“There are a few rules of thumb that are useful guides. One is that when you are confronted with some problem in the apiary and you do not know what to do, then do nothing. Matters are seldom made worse by doing nothing and are often made much worse by inept intervention.”
So figuring I had done enough damage I decided the best course of action was simply to let nature take its course and give the bees the chance to fix the situation. It appears that they did. I was quite nervous for a time, as my limited view from the observation windows of the hives shows a lot of drones, but no new brood comb that I could identify, and no new workers. However, it seems the situation has resolved itself and a couple of weeks ago I started seeing both brood and lots of young bees. So though I haven’t done a thorough inspection of the hives, and have not seen queens in either one, the evidence points to a laying queen in both.
With that problem behind me, I had to find something else to compulsively worry about, so I moved on to concern that with the drought we’ve been experiencing the bees might be running low on food. Since we’ve had a couple of days of below 90 degree weather I decided to take the opportunity to crack things open and check it out.
I started with the new hive and the first two frames I pulled out were mostly full of capped honey, so they have at least some stores to get them through. It was evening and still quite warm so I wasn’t going to do a complete inspection. I went ahead and put some foil in the bottom of the hive and poured some plain sugar on it. Bees will eat raw sugar if they are hungry and it is less messy and troublesome than syrup. I had a couple of large messes when I originally fed syrup and have decided from now on that they will get plain sugar, or hard sugar candy with pollen.
I moved to the other hive and found the unused portion of the hive filled with young bees. I think they move there to help cool the main hive body off in the hot weather. At any rate I pulled a few boards of half built comb and didn’t see much honey, or brood for that matter, but I’m fairly confident that there was plenty in the rest of the hive. Just to be on the safe side I gave them some sugar as well. Since I hadn’t opened the hive up for quite some time they had started joining all the comb together and making tunnels and chambers in the stuff. This is kind of a mess for managing the hive, but it is fascinating to me what they will do when left to their own devices.
So, at this point it seems I have two healthy hives. I’ve provided some food just in case, but I think they are doing well.
Queenless? June 26, 2011
A couple of weeks have passed since the rather messy hive split. The bees have seemed to resume their moderate temperament and I’ve not had any problems getting close to either hive and have received no more stings.
The new hive is quite active and sending out foragers, however at this point I’m certain that the queen did not make it to the new hive. My dad wanted to see the hive so I suited us both up and lit up the new smoker and went out to open the hives for the first time since the attempted hive split.
Things went well, the bees were very calm and not overly aggressive. I did get a couple of stings during the process, but nothing out of the ordinary. The original hive is still thriving and I added a couple more bars to it to give them more room to expand. I am now out of waxed bars and used one without a wax starter strip. I’m hoping because it is between other bits of built comb they will still build straight. I really need to get a few more bars prepped for future expansions.
The new hive appeared healthy, but there were two things of note. One was that there were a couple of queen cells. Most likely there were more but my dad was being done in by wearing the heavy clothes in the heat so I was just doing a very quick inspection. The other was that there were no apparent brood cells anywhere. This pretty obviously indicates a queenless hive, which is much what I suspected.
Over the weekend I decided to do a more thorough inspection of both hives. I cannot find the old queen in either hive, and there are many queen cells in both. I’m also not seeing a lot of brood cells or eggs in the old hive, which makes me wonder if it has been sans queen for a bit. That would explain the aggressive behavior, and of course the presence of all the queen cells could indicate that the old queen was either gone or they were preparing to supplant her. There also appears to be a disproportionately high number of drones and drone cells present. That might simply indicate the hive was preparing for swarming, but it can also indicate a laying worker, which causes lots of problems. So at this point I’m bit concerned because I cannot verify a queen in either hive, and I’m not sure there is enough brood to support either colony until a new queen can be reared. I thought I may have seen a queen in the old hive, but she wasn’t on the comb and was just in the bottom of the hive. It’s possible that this was a new virgin queen, or even a mated one that wasn’t laying yet. I went ahead and took two bars of brood with a couple of queen cells and moved them to the new hive. This cuts the old hive pretty short on new workers, but I’m hoping that it is closer to actually producing a new queen. It’s a gamble, but hopefully one that pays off. At this point it might actually be smarter to recombine them, but I’m hoping with all the queen cells I’ve seen that new queens will appear in both hives shortly.
So at this point I’m a little nervous about the future of my colonies. There is a lot that can happen to a queen bee while out on a mating flight so there is no guarantee that any of the queen cells will ultimately produce a fertile queen to sustain the colony, and even if they do, it is still a race against time for a queen to start laying before the current supply of workers dies off. If it does work out though I will have bees that have mated with local stock (hopefully wild and not just from another beek in the area). I will also have gotten past the problem of the queen with the clipped wings and can quit worrying about swarming behavior and just let nature take its course.
Besides all the problems I did note that there was getting to be a lot of honey in both hives. I don’t really want to harvest much with the hives in the condition they are in, but I couldn’t resist taking just a little bit for a taste.
It wasn’t bad. Had kind of a strong overtone that I couldn’t quite place.
Hive Split Gone Awry June 12, 2011
I haven’t posted an update for a while because there hasn’t been much new to report. The hive is continuing to thrive and has built a great deal of comb. I’ve been expanding the hive by a couple of bars a week and at this rate in another month they will fill the available space in the main hive.
With their population rising and the production of some queen cells I decided to go ahead and do a pre-emptive hive split to artificially create the result of a swarm. This seemed like a simple process, just take several bars of comb including brood, honey, the old queen, and all the worker bees on the comb and put it in the new hive. The original hive will simply rear a new queen and if all goes well I will have two healthy colonies.
Unfortunately things went badly from the start. The evening before I started this procedure I got stung while mowing the lawn. The bees had not stung me before when I had been working outside, but one zipped right up under my hat and stung me on the ear which was not real comfortable. This may have just been a fluke, but I was using a weed-eater about 20ft away from the hive and it seems that may have irritated them.
The weather had been quite hot so I decided to start the split early in the morning before it got to warm. The comb can easily fall apart if the temperatures are too high and I didn’t want to risk that happening during the move. So I got suited up and went out to start the process. As soon as I opened the hive I got attacked by a lot of bees. They were more aggressive than I had ever seen them. I went about pulling out the four bars from the new hive which I had placed in the old and put them in a box with the right dimensions to hold them. I started to look for the queen, but the bees were really starting to sting me now. Most of it was not getting through my clothes but I had over a dozen stingers stuck in me now. This of course is a vicious circle as the pheromones released by stinging bees encourage more bees to sting.
In the past, if the bees have seemed to agitated I’ve walked about 20ft away and they seem to calm down, this time however they pursued me. I had what seemed like hundreds of bees on me, and several stings were penetrating my shirt and jeans. I walked around to the front of my place to get away from this, but they followed. My cat who was in the yard also got attacked and was stung several times which produced some interesting acrobatics. She was finally able to run away and get through the pet door inside.
The sugar water spray was completely ineffective at this time and I decided it was time to try some smoke. I had been reluctant to do this since the natural beekeeping gurus I’m following recommend against it. However I was getting desperate and had to do something to get the situation enough under control to finish what I was doing and get the hive closed back up. I called for my wife to throw out a lighter and some paper for me. I use a charcoal chimney to light my grill so I got this out and started a fire in it with the paper and some charcoal. It smokes a lot when first lit so I started waving that around which had an immediate effect. I took it back to the hive and waved it around a bit more which dispersed the cloud of stinging bees long enough for me to get the hive closed up and transfer the comb and bees I had removed to the new hive.
The bees remained in an agitated state the rest of the day, and I was unable to work outside. Even eight hours later I was getting stung 50 or 60 feet away from the hive as soon as I would walk outside.
At this point I’m not sure if the split worked. I do not know where the old queen is, but I think that I missed her and she is still in the original hive. I also think that I did not get any of the queen cells from the old hive which would have been the next best thing to getting the queen. If there are enough workers and eggs in the new hive, they still will have a chance to raise a new queen, but I’m not sure they have a large enough population to survive until a new queen is reared and mated and starts laying eggs.
The original hive is still likely to swarm at this point since the bulk of the bees remain and new queens may already be under development. While my initial urge is to go try to find the queen and move her, I’m a bit afraid of doing more damage than good at this point. I may just let nature take its course. If the new split fails, the old colony will still be strong, and even if they swarm I should still have a strong hive afterwards, even if I do lose some bees and honey.
My biggest concern with the old hive swarming has to do with the fact that I started with a queen with clipped wings which I somewhat regret now. If the hive swarms, the queen will simply fall to the ground and be lost, quite possibly with the bees that follow her. I wouldn’t mind losing half the colony if they were going to have a good chance of making it in the wild as feral bees, but with the clipped queen that isn’t going to happen. So part of me kind of hopes that the swarm takes place now while there is plenty of summer weather left for them to rebuild the population. Once the clipped queen is gone I won’t be as concerned with swarming behavior. I really only have room to keep a couple of hives, so once they have reached capacity I will either have to let them swarm, or find other beekeepers that want to adopt some bees from me.
I also have decided that I will use a smoker as needed. I ordered one that night. While using smoke may upset the bees and disrupt the hive for a time, opening up the hive as I did and having them go completely postal obviously disrupted them for several hours. Additionally, scores, if not hundreds of bees died stinging me. Fortunately only a dozen stings or so got through my clothing, but my shirt and pants were covered with stingers by the end of the process. So, I’m beginning to see the act of disrupting the hive with a bit of smoke as the lesser of evils in this case.