The tree bees come down

You may remember from my last post, ‘Surrounded by bees: a tale of four swarms‘ that I had a swarm which was determined to stay high up in a tree. They had been there a few weeks and had been busy building yellow comb.

To my relief and surprise, they’ve come down! They must have been craving shelter after all the rain they’ve endured, as this time they landed under a thick bush, less than two feet up from the floor. Below you can see my father-in-law Tom cutting away some of the greenery so we could get at them.

Tom cutting a branch

It was an easy collect. Tom held a nucleus box underneath, while I brushed the bees in. I took a frame of eggs and honey from another hive so that they have brood pheromone and food in there to help persuade them to stay. In the photo below most of the bees had already been brushed in. I left the nuc on the ground; the bees gathered round the entrance and started busily fanning their Nasonov glands, telling the few bees left on the branch to come on down. Within about half an hour they had all gone in.

A couple of the other swarms I hived in nuc boxes this month have not done very well, I think they must have been headed up by virgins which got eaten by birds/didn’t manage to mate/suffered some other unknown fate. In both cases a few bees were clustered round the frames I’d given them and up in the feeder, but they hadn’t managed to draw out any new comb and there was no sign of eggs.

In contrast the colony which landed on the wall with a mated queen is booming. Since I hived them two weeks ago on 6th May they have completely drawn out every frame in the nuc and the queen is laying with gusto.

Normally I would now transfer them to a full sized brood box (with the help of dummy boards to keep them warm while they expand). However I’m thinking about overwintering them in the nuc so that I can sell the nuc in the spring. Do any more experienced beekeepers have any thoughts on what would be the best course of action? Is there more of a market for nucs or for full sized colonies?

Our foxgloves are out – they’re beautiful and attracting long-tongued bumble bees, which buzz pollinate them, vibrating their bodies inside to shake their pollen out. Dave Goulson’s blog on ‘The best garden flowers for bees‘ says they are a favourite with B. hortorum and B. pascuorum (the garden bumblebee and the common carder bee). Often you can hear the bee inside the foxglove but not see it!

Foxgloves

Our bed of lambs ear sits next to the foxgloves. It is growing enthusiastically and I am excited for when it flowers later in the summer and attracts buzzy solitary bees. I have also planted some borage and sunflowers and leaves are emerging!

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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7 Responses to The tree bees come down

  1. Drew says:

    Lovely post monkey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Apiarist says:

    Hi Emily … it’s only May … there’s no chance you’ll manage to keep them in the nuc (without them swarming) until next season! Not unless you’re willing to remove/replace brood frames for the next few months. “A swarm in May is worth a bale of hay” (or something like that) … you should get a honey crop off that colony during the summer nectar flow. If you want nucs to overwinter then build them up and then split them in late June to July sometime – leaving enough time to get queens mated and build up the nucs. You know your climate so you’ll have to use your judgement. Realistically you could have 3 or even four nucs with mated queens by late August, with still enough time to fatten them up for winter.
    Happy Beekeeping 🙂
    David

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  3. I’ve been wondering about your tree bees. I like the trick of putting a frame with brood in it to attract them to the nuc. At a bee meeting last winter we were shown a report on the thermique qualities of different hives. The polystyrene nucs performed very well, better than the wooden hives tested and much better than the plastic ones tested to avoid large fluctuations in internal temperature. It is something else to take into consideration. Amelia

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    • Emily Scott says:

      I did the brood frame method this time (rather than putting a queen excluder on) as I couldn’t spot a mated queen so thought there may be a virgin in there who needs to go on mating flights. Interesting about the polystyrene nucs. Bees do seem to do well in them. They are useful for swarm collecting as they’re so light, much easier to hold under while brushing bees in.

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  4. I’m so happy to hear that the tree bees have found a home with you. And I love it when there’s a bumble in a foxglove flower – there’s a great vibration and racket, and then the bumble emerges and I laugh out loud, every time. (Kind of like a jack-in-the-box, I suppose. Or I’m easily entertained.) 😉

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