Bait Hives and Swarming
I have read with envy, on the Facebook pages of both NBKT and NBH, the great success contributors have had with their swarms and bait hives. In many cases the swarms occupied the hives within only a couple of days or so of being set up in trees or in their apiaries. No such good fortune here. Having made ten bait hives, I distributed them amongst my beekeeping friends in the area and no interest was shown by bees in any of them, nor in a variety of empty hives in the area. I was not completely surprised. There were huge losses of bees at the end of last summer following the long drought and exceedingly high temperatures, and those colonies which survived into spring were covering only a few combs. The lack of bees generally in our area was made even more apparent in that when working with molten wax out of doors to prime top bars, not a single bee came to investigate.
Having lost all my colonies (the first time in 45 years) I have had to buy bees to restock my apiary. Unfortunately, the only bees available here are on Langstroth frames, so I will have to wait until the colonies are really strong before I can transfer them to hives of various types where they can build their nests in the way that is more natural for them.
In this edition of the magazine Phil Chandler gives some excellent practical advice on how bees can be transferred from standard hives to top bar or other bee-friendly hives – most important when swarms or package bees are unattainable.
Fortunately, the bees I bought in are all from very strong second swarms, thus with naturally-raised queens, from this spring. The beekeeper (who never uses chemicals) is fortunate to have his apiary well inland where foraging opportunities are much better than in Mani where I live. He inspects his apiary every afternoon and usually collects the swarms from the ends of poles to which he has attached pieces of foam soaked in a bee attractant.
TBHs, Skeps and Fancy Hives
There are several types of homes for bees featured in this issue.
From Germany, Jörg Ruther, gives construction details for a Top Bar Hive with a difference, explaining the importance of having a ‘diffusion lid’ based on the research of Torben Schiffer and Roland Sachs, as well as why the Japanese technique of scorching wood is good for both the inside and outside of beehives.
Jacqueline Freeman writing from the USA shows us how she constructed and daubed her wicker hive, with the added feature of an eco-floor which will allow beneficial organisms to share the hive with the colony.
From a hillside village in Austria, artists Monika and Pawel Stawoska reveal the inspiration behind their exquisitely constructed and decorated hives and how they are using their land as a sanctuary for bees by planting masses of forage plants. They also use their apiary as an education resource for the public so that people can learn about bees, the problems they face and what can be done to help them survive.
How Old is a Colony of Bees?
Very often beekeepers talk of colonies lasting for many years in a particular location. But in reality, as Hannes Bonhoff explains, a colony only has the same life span as the queen that heads it. Unlike human children that leave the ‘nest’, it is the mother of a colony of bees that moves out and bequeaths the home to her offspring, with this process continuing ad infinitum.
This reminds me of a man who said he had spade that was over twenty years old. He had only needed to replace the blade twice and the shaft three times! It is important, therefore, to keep records so that we have some idea about the inhabitants of our hives, as Joss Langford advises within these pages.