Apiculture cannot just be a business. It is much more than that. I suppose that is true whenever you deal with living creatures. There are many things that must be done to support and care for those that provide for us. One of the things we try to do in our spare time is conservancy. For many years I would chase swarms around as the calls came in. This is not very efficient. So I started to search for a smarter way to do this. A couple of years ago, I began using swarm lures. These can be hung in problematic locations, where wild swarms congregate each year and create a nuisance. This is one such lure that I paid a visit in October.
This particular swarm moved in sometime in July. Here in the lure box they lived quite nicely until I had need for them. That time came. One hive lost their queen. It actually was a very strong hive. Lots of bees. But the queen disappeared. And slowly, so did the brood. As the empty cells were cleaned out by the housekeepers, no queen came to lay eggs. And slowly, the brood frames became filled with delicious honey. Despite the burgeoning food supplies, this hive was doomed.
Now here is where the guidance of the apiculturist can help two colonies use their natural tendencies to help each other. The smaller colony in the swarm lure box, must be joined with the larger queenless colony to ensure that both have the biggest chance to survive. The receiving hive, shown above, must be prepped for the arrival of their new comrades, and queen.
The newspaper barrier installed on the hive creates a temporary restraining force. It prevents the two colonies from fighting until they get two know each other. Like many social creatures, you cannot just mix two individuals, or two groups that have never met together without unpredictable and sometimes violent results. It is far better to do it slowly, allow the two groups to mix a little at a time. The news paper serves this purpose.
The second super will be added to the hive. And the new colony from the swarm lure will be inserted into the open space.
Here we see inside the relocated swarm lure box. The colony is located in the center three frames. These are relocated into the gap in the second box, along with a few frames of honey.
Now for the introductions, the newspaper works its magic. Having become board with the business section of the San Francisco Chronicle, these bees began chewing their way through the paper. Naturally this happens little by little. A few bees are able to get through and mix with the colony on the other side. Not too fast. They then continue to chew, opening the doorway larger and larger. As they do over the course of the seceding weeks, the get to know each other.
Now the two colonies can mix. The large body of workers in the doomed colony, now have a new queen, and a small group of additional workers. Together they make a fully formed colony, with an even stronger chance of surviving the winter.
Now of course, back to our original premise, it is unlikely that Carmel Lavender will see $1 this quarter. So quarterly profits cannot drive our stewardship. However, if we are lucky, come April, there will be one more colony of bees around the farm. And just maybe, if we are really really lucky, a few pounds of extra honey come next fall. But regardless, it was the right thing to do. And when you support Carmel Lavender by purchasing honey or Beeswax products from our web store, you enable us to continue this important work.