Recipe for Swarm Lure

Those bee colonies that swarm are strong, and I want strong bees. I hated that one of my hives died last year…the hive that died was always kind of slow compared to the Amazons (which I got as a result of a swarm from Chris’s hive). It makes sense that it you’ve got strong colonies, you’d want to propogate them. And there are several ways to do that, though I haven’t done it yet.

Last night I mixed up a batch of swarm lure—I have to give credit to Linda over at Linda’s Bees. She posted this recipe several years ago.

I mixed 1/4 cup olive oil, a wad of beeswax (1/2 of a sheet of foundation), and about 20 drops of lemongrass oil. I heated the mixture together in a glass measuring cup that I placed in a pan of boiling water. Once it was all melted together, I poured it into a small foil bread mold we had in the cabinet. It solidified into a smearable paste in about 5 minutes. I wish I’d had a nice little jar with a lid, but all the jars I have are too deep to keep shoving my hands into.

Today I’ll head out to an unused brood box I’ve set up near my hives and smear it with this swarm lure. It’s supposed to attract bees…apparently the lemongrass oil smells like the queen pheremone; the oil and wax keep the lemongrass oil from dissipating and make the mixture workable.

In the swarm-lure box are 10 frames with beeswax foundation (I’m supposed to have some frames of drawn comb in there, too, but I don’t have any. All my combs are with the bees), so once the scout bees from a swarm come to check out the smell in my brood box, they should find a nice home in a good neighborhood all ready for them to move into.

Later today, I plan to call the police and fire departments in my area and add my name to their swarm capture list…then, if anyone calls to report a swarm of bees, I’m on the list of people who will go and capture it. It’s a great way to increase the number of robust bees.

Making Swarm Lure
Liquid Swarm Lure
Solidified Swarm Lure

That'll Teach Us to Open that Danged Hive without a Mannerly Puff of Smoke

We’ve had company for a few days, and that got us a little bit off our usual schedule around here. But I put our guests on a plane this afternoon, and when Deb got home we went out to check on the bees. Things seemed calm and happy, and I’m convinced that activity at Tomboys and Girls of Summer was simply new bees taking their orientation flights. They were all sunning lazily on their front porch when we arrived late in the day.

We decided that Tomboys and Girls of Summer may need a honey super on top of their two brood boxes…our spring has been so wonderfully full of flowers and generally good weather, and I think our new colonies may want to make some honey for us. They’re certainly full of bees who want some work to do.

So, before we headed off to dinner on our scooters,¬†we decided to put a new super on Tomboys…without using the smoker, without a veil, without gloves, without a hive tool, without a brain. The second we lifted the inner cover from the hive, bees came after us like a house on fire. I got stung immediately on the neck, so I threw the lid on the hive and ran like hell through our back yard with bees after me. Deb wasn’t far behind…slapping her ear and her leg and her head. I got a bee in my t-shirt, so I ripped it off and ran around the yard in my bra. In broad gorgeous daylight. I put my shirt back on and another bee got in there. I ripped it off again and beat the air with it to get the Tomboys to back off. God, I hope the neighbors weren’t watching.

We both got stung…I got one, maybe two. Deb got two stings.

What was I thinking, Reader? Geez. What an idiot. We got a good laugh out of it (as well as a couple of angry red welts), but I’ve learned not to go about these bee things so cavalierly.

Amazon Swarm, May 2010

And There Was The SWARM

We’d just settled down in the Adirondack chairs when I looked up into the tree. And there was something just not right about something up there…it looked odd. And then I saw it—the SWARM.

My Amazons had swarmed and the swarm was drooping from the lowest branch of a tall tall tree. Too high to reach by any ladder other than one belonging to the the fire department.

Oh my gosh, did I jump to action. I ran into the basement and yanked all the leftover equipment stored down there and I ran it all out and set it up under the swarm…then I jumped in the car and drove like a crazy person to the Natural Food Store to buy lemongrass oil because it’s said to be a swarm lure. We smeared lemongrass oil and honey all over the super and frames set beneath the swarm, and we hoped the girls would decide it looked like a great home.

To make a long story short…we set the bottle of lemongrass oil on the lure box; we took the stopper out of it; we put the stopper into it again; we moved the lemongrass oil inside the lure box; we moved it out again; we set the lure box up on a ladder; we tried to throw a long rope over the branch the swarm was attached to; we couldn’t reach it with the rope; we tied a wrench to the end of the rope as a weight to help us reach the branch and tried it several more times again; we succeeded only in throwing the wrench and rope into the garden; we spread a sheet beneath the swarm in case the swarm dropped from the tree—we did everything we knew to do, and then we undid it. We have no idea what we’re doing. How on earth can you seduce a swarm of bees?

I went out there in the night with a flashlight to check on them.

They were still there this morning.

I turned my back on them for 10 minutes and they disappeared. They now live in some unknown hollow tree trunk in the woods behind our house. Deb’s been out there searching for them.

I was so disappointed.

I guess the good news is that now we’ll have a new queen in the Amazon hive because the older queen should have left with half the bees. God speed, bees.

It helped that I later discovered two frames of capped honey ready for harvest…and we collected about 2 pounds of gorgeous, almost-clear honey from our Amazon girls.

Amazon Swarm, May 2010
Amazon Swarm, May 2010

Swarm Lure, May 2010
Amazon honey, May 2010

Whatever Goes in Your Yard Goes in Your Honey Goes in You

The Scott’s lawn service truck just pulled up to my across-the-street neighbor’s house, and now the guy is out spraying chemicals on the grass. Deb calls them the honey-bee eliminators. Friends—pesticides and herbicides are bad for bees; and they’re bad for your honey. Whatever goes in your yard goes in your honey goes in you. How hard is this to understand? Let’s keep it raw and sweet. Dandelions and clover are very very good.

Live Blogging from Bee School

Sometimes I dread these things because I think I’ll get bored. But if I blog about this as I go, I might like it more.

There’s honey everywhere.

9:11 am

This guy, John Tew, PhD—from Ohio State University—said I should attend the Hive Management I and II sessions. He’s our Ohio bee guru, so, that’s why I’m sitting right now in Hive Management I.

9:21 am

We’re talking about varroa mites and lost colonies and the beginning beekeepers’ steep learning curve. Apparently I’m gonna lose a few hives before I figure out all these patterns. Good thing I like spotting patterns.

9:28 am

I need new glasses. I can’t see for shit from where I stand near the back of the room.

9:50 am

There’s a young woman sitting next to me. I’d say she’s 15 or 16 years old. That’s cool. Mostly, there are guys in Carhart and Farm Bureau caps, but there are a lot of lesbians here, too. The lesbians take notes as if their lives depend on it. Crazy lesbians. I wish I could get one to pose for you with her notebook and pen. That would be funny.

10:02 am

Remember: Dandilions are good..it’s the first source of the season that supplies both pollen and nectar. The hive just explodes when those little yellow flowers bloom.

Clover, too.

Too bad I’ve spent so much time and money trying to eradicate all those flowers-otherwise-known-as-weeds that are just perfect for bees. Who are the bozos telling us to destroy everything but grass? And why do we listen to that bullshit? What’s wrong with us?!

10:09 am

The ONLY job I have with a new colony is to get the bees through their first winter. Feed them until they won’t eat any more. Year One is not sexy.

10:52 am

Getting a little bored because this second session is a too theoretical for me this year. I want only practical stuff right now.

I’ve seen a couple of people I know.

11:06 am

The guy sitting next to me wears argyle socks. He’s sort of out of place here, don’t you think?

12:08 pm

We’re eating lunch. Here’s my friend Jim.

12:35 pm

Now I’m attending “Getting Started Installing Bees,” but this guy’s talking about his kids. What a bore. This place is packed. All kinds of people.

12:53 pm

I had to leave that session. They should ask me to facilitate a breakout session next year. I can sure as hell do it, and I guarantee you people wouldn’t slip out like I just did. Problem is, I don’t know anything yet. Well, that shouldn’t stop me. I think I’d call my breakout thingy “Things You REALLY Need to Know to Get Started, and I’m Not Blowing Smoke.”

Anyway, it’s pretty outside, so I’m gonna go get some air and sunshine.

1:33 pm

One session to go, and if this guy’s no good, I’m hitting the road. I’m dying for a a diet Coke. I’m also dying for a bike ride.

1:38 pm

I’ve seen only one African American here. Otherwise, we’re all caucasian. Three hundred ninety nine caucasians and one black person. Something’s wrong here.

And, as usual, I did not win a door prize. Shit.

2:08 pm

Nap time. I’m getting soooo drowsy. This always happens to me at 2:00 pm when I’m in meetings. I’m still trying to listen, but my eyes are closed. Someone should turn a hive of bees loose in here and wake us all up.

2:39 pm

Signing off from Bee School.