Monday, March 9, 2015
Survival Bee Keeping - Scouting for Bees
Saturday and Sunday had me out cutting wood of course although mostly for next year's use since it was almost entirely green. Saturday I was busting a clear path down deeper into a hollow where I plan on taking out some dead trees and Sunday I was cleaning up a good sized live Oak that a friend had taken down out of her yard. Both days were quite warm and the honey bees were out just about everywhere.
Cutting wood on warm days this time of year always attracts honey bees out looking for meager forage. I imagine the smell and the sap can bring them in from a mile away or more and I wasn't disappointed this weekend either. Saturday I was over at the old farm I grew up on so the appearance of a couple dozen honey bees landing in the saw dust or licking up the sap off the cut pieces of logs wasn't a surprise. I have caught many a swarm in traps from there over the years. Yesterday however I was a good 10 miles or more Northeast of the old farm and perhaps the same distance Southeast from the Small-Hold. The feral bees showing up there were a pleasant discovery.
The owner of the property is a nice older lady who is friends with my Mother and who lost her husband last year. As is typical in this day and age her family is spread out hundreds of miles away and little things like removing a tree from her backyard have become a nuisance. I have seen this scenario become much more common over the last few years. As a matter of fact the last two years I have barely needed to go into the woods to cut firewood at all as there literally seems to be no end to the weed trees I am asked to remove by the aging population who can no longer do so themselves. Many of them find it hard to even get professional tree service companies to come out and cut the trees down, either because they are over booked or it just isn't worth their time. I know this Lady had to schedule the felling of the tree and wait almost six months for them to come and do it. I will cut anything up but I won't fell one that's close to the house or other buildings.
Anyway that scenario and it's growth is another post. What works out to my favor besides getting firewood that is usually easier to get to and already on the ground is that the homeowner is more than willing to allow me to hang a swarm trap up or remove other useful items. In this case the Lady in question also has several power poles down on her property she once removed too. More corner posts for me!!! But the discovery that there are feral hives around also means putting a trap there will more than likely prove worth while.
Trapping feral honey bees is one of my top priorities this time of year. I will put traps out about the first week of April and leave em out until July. Capturing swarms from kept hives is nice but the bread and butter of survival bee keeping is capturing swarms from wild colonies. These are bees that have been dealing with pests, such as mites and hive beetles, on their own for years and survived. Just the qualities I am looking for to keep bees in a declining world were chemical treatments and manufactured accessories could quickly become a thing of the past over night.
One trait that has been documented with survivor bees has been the nurse bees recognizing which larva are infected with mites and removing them from the colony thereby breaking the mites reproductive cycle. Another reason Feral bees seem to survive better is that they are not forced to build brood comb on larger celled foundation. Mites tend to reproduce more in drone cells because they are bigger forcing larger worker cells for brood just increases the mite load by making more larva appealing to the mites.
Whatever the various factors are capturing survival bees is an important part of my operation. I believe they are hardier and more adapted to my local conditions. Better able to withstand local pests and generally more prepared to over Winter better than packaged bees or those who swarm out of packaged hives.
The downside of course is slower growth. Where I could have went out and purchased 20 hives from day one it has taken me years to grow into the 13 I have now.
I cannot say my theory is fact. The drought of 2012 really hurt with some hard losses but since that time my Winter losses have been few and so far this year it looks as if I did not lose even one hive (yes I am knocking on wood while I type that). I think my successes with over Wintering hives has a lot to do with my high percentages of captured feral swarms and splits made mostly from local genetics with only a very few introduced queens and then ONLY Northern queens when I do it.
Let's face it nothing weeds out weak genetics like a good old fashioned Winter. It has been natures proving ground since time began.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!