In our last Bee Swarm episode, we had captured a swarm of bees and put them in a hive box. So, we decided to check up on them. And, perhaps more important, make sure they were well fed.
When bees swarm they first gorge themselves with honey, which is one of the reasons they are so docile in a swarm. They aren’t protecting a hive, so have no need of aggression. Moreover, the honey acts to calm the bees. That’s the main reason why smoke works to calm bees. When the bees sense smoke, fearing that their hive will be consumed by flames, they gorge themselves with honey, which calms them. They, then, carry the honey where needed; so, in case of disaster, or when swarming, they will have their honey to store.
A natural way to calm bees is to spray them with sugar water. It’s not quite as effective as smoke, but has a calming effect. I used to use sugar water, but found that my intrusion on the bees was disruptive whether by sugar water or smoke, and the bees are adapted to smoke; it’s a natural occurrence. Being squirted with sugar water tends to confuse them.
In any event, I went out first to make sure the bees were in the hive. Which they were. So, I came back inside the house and mixed up some sugar and water to feed the bees.
There are differing opinions on the proper mix of sugar to water. I just mix sugar in warm water until it starts to precipitate. If the sugar stays suspended in the syrup, it’s the right mixture. You will notice in the photo that we use a water filter; that takes out the chlorine and any other impurities. If you don’t have a filter, you can pour water into a container and wait 48-72 hours allowing the water to release harmful gases.
Of course, since we grow organic, we prefer to use organic sugar. That way, we are assured there are no pesticide residues in the sugar water we feed the bees.
Now, what’s next? What I do is use what’s called an entrance feeder. You can see it’s turned upside down in filling it with water and sugar. Normally, one would turn it upright and slip the flat feeder portion into the entrance to the hive.
But as you can see here, what I’ve done is take an empty hive box and placed it on top of the hive (see the top box on hive to the right); the inner cover acts as the bottom for the top box.
I put the feeder there. Having it inside the box protects against stronger hives “robbing” the feeder at the entrance. Since the swarm in the new hive is smaller than an established hive, it pays to protect it and help it get established.
The honey flow is just starting here. Butter cups are abundant, and white clover is now just starting to blossom.
If could could see closer you would notice that the bees are laden with pollen.
While I was out fooling with the bees, I switched my iPhone over to video and took a video of them, following one of “my girls” out to the field of buttercups behind our house. Here it is on YouTube: http://youtu.be/1tpm-ltlTrk
If you choose to watch it, make sure and stay for the end, for a special appearance of Phoenix, our cat. 🙂 The video is only two minutes and 15 seconds long.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.