Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bee swarm rescue 60 ft up in pine tree!

Yesterday I went to help Chris and Lucy attempt to rescue a bee swarm 60 ft up in a Lobolly pine tree at a summer camp nearby. This late in the year when bees swarm the chances of them surviving the winter is pretty slim. Bee hives need to store at least 40 pounds of honey to make it though the winter and need to be a large enough colony to make a cluster at least as big as a soccer ball, bigger would be much better. The more bees in a cluster the more effective they are at warming the brood and themselves for the next generation. Collecting the swarm would give them a better chance of survival as the beekeeper can feed them all winter long and give them better odds at making it through the winter.

 This is the bee swarm that was 60 foot (18-19 meters) up in the pine tree. I took this photo with my 400 mm lens, not the best photo the lighting was very difficult.
 The observation beehive at  Camp Chestnut Ridge, this hive was given to them by the Museum of Life and Sciences when theirs was replaced with a new one. We observed the hive closely and saw several supersedure cells  where the worker bees were attempting to replace the queen. The bees were removing dead or infected larva constantly, not a good sign. We also saw several dead Yellow Jackets being removed from the hive. The screened port in the lower center smelled pretty bad, I don't know the odors to look for it, seemed grim to me.
 Here is Chris making his way up the tree using slings to climb the tree.
 At the top you can see the swarm, my estimate perhaps 12,000 bees in the swarm. Chris is setting up rigging to tie off the limb so it does not drop to the ground when he cuts it.
 This was very hard work, he is smiling just the same.
 Above the tree limb with the bees is rigged and almost ready to cut. Afraid of heights? He is 60 foot up and the tree sways often.
The limb is cut, it drops faster than expected. Chris told us maybe a 1000 bees stayed on the limb. The other 11,000 or so took flight and made an impressive sight seeing them swirl all around the limb. Then it happened, they just vanished! We looked nearby and could not relocate them.

Before heading out yesterday I placed a sticky board at the bottom of our hive to check for mites, this morning the results came in 3-4 mites, 15 would be bad, so we passed inspection for now. Also saw our first Small Hive Beetle and the board had a dead beetle larva on it.

Rain, yes this morning perhaps an half inch of rain fell. The lower rain tote overflow drain worked for the first time, it watered the camellia bush very good. The upper rain tote of the shed still is no way near full. So we have perhaps 350 gallons of rain water in storage, more than we have ever had. Currently with the two totes we could store around 550 gallons.

Tomorrow is the Durham Butterfly Count I'll be leading a group or going by myself (Meg and Sharna are here but they are spending time with Meg's son who is leaving to go overseas with the army very soon.) The normal butterfly areas I have covered in the past look pretty dismal from lack of rain and mowing by the highway department. So I'll be covering the Eno River State Park which I know very well. The state parks manage their mowing much better than the highway department so I should do fairly well there.

We had a Common Wood-Nymph in the tomato patch today, normally we see one every other year or so here.

16 comments:

Karen said...

Wow, what a rescue attempt. To climb 60 feet toward a swarm makes him a very brave man indeed! So what will they do now? Will the 1000 bees be taken back to the hive? Beekeeping is very meticulous work, I can see that.

Good news on the rain totes filling. I really like your idea which is much more efficient than my four 50 gallon drums.

Carol said...

Randy, I wish I had a 400 mm lens. Great shot in that it shows us the volume . . . the large size of it. 12,000! Wow! They are so docile at this time. I have had lots of swarms and the hives seem to survive here quite well. This past winter was bad on my resident "wild" honey bees. It is amazing to see the swarms. Congratulations on your success with bees and storing water! I look forward to seeing your butterflies!!

Randy Emmitt said...

Karen,
The entire swarm vanished shortly after the limb was cut, the queen must have fell free and all the bees would have followed her.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

This is a great rescue story. What an ordeal though that high up in the pine. And to go up that tree unprotected from the bees even if they are more docile at this time, yikes. It is wonderful you are getting some rain too.

greggo said...

a brave man. we've had 3 days of occasional rain. heard they had some in Texas also.

Benjamin Vogt said...

The things we will do. What an adventure, and I'm upset it didn't turn out for the better!

PlantPostings said...

Thanks for all the info on beekeeping and rescuing. I'm not brave enough to do it, but I'm thankful that some people are, so we have plentiful supplies of honey.

Birds, Bees, Berries, and Blooms said...

That was pretty exciting! I wonder where they went? My husband dealt with a swarm in Deadwood this year. They captured them. Last he heard they were happy with their new home.

Lola said...

Brave indeed. It's a shame you couldn't have gotten them all.
Could you have put them with yours?

L. Ambler said...

Wow. That was a tense and scary climb to me. Interesting post since I know nothing about bees.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Yikes! If I can't reach a swarm with a pruning ladder, all bets are off ;) Have you seen this poem?

"A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July let them fly."

I wonder what the August line should have been? Regardless, you're right, late swarms generally don't do well.

Honestly, I don't much like observation hives. I think they're a fabulous teaching tool, but if they're not really managed, they just don't seem like a good thing from the bee's perspective. Most I've seen aren't in good shape. We're fighting yellow jackets right now, and I'll post later this week how we're trying to manage that.

Glad your mite count was low. We just finished our first round of treatment, and I'm doing a count now. Should have the results Wednesday. I'm crossing my fingers that our infested hive is at least improved, but I wouldn't be surprised if we need to take further action. As for 40lbs of honey, none of our hives have that this year. I see a lot of supplemental fall feeding before closing the hives up for winter.

Cameron said...

Brave, daring and amazing! I wonder if the bees realize the "heights" your friend went to for their well-being?

compost in my shoe said...

Not sure I need a swarm that bad, but it certainly made for great shots!!!

John said...

Geez, I'm impressed. I'm not exactly afraid of heights but heights and bee swarm together...

Meredith said...

Okay, wow. What an amazing effort. I'm learning so much about bees from you!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Interesting rescue! I would not be the climber!