Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Musings on a Survivor Hive



There’s this little hive I have behind my house. They came on their own, moving into an empty trap hive I had stored back there. But that was two years ago. I haven’t done anything with them. I haven’t even peeked inside their box. I guess at this point it makes them a survivor hive.

I just let them be, coming and going as they maintain their little colony. It gives me something to watch, especially the abundant activity in the morning as they bring in pollen. The afternoon entertainment is the orientation flights of the new field bees.


My house always seems to be a magnet for swarms—mainly because I have empty equipment stored around it. Before I know it, a swarm has arrived and moved into one of the empty trap hives. 

Sometimes I see bees checking out the swarm traps a head of time. Other times I don’t notice anything until the loud buzzing of the bees indicates a swarm is moving into one of the boxes. Other times it is as if they have magically appeared overnight. One day there is an empty box and then the next I see bees coming and going from the entrance.

My wife saw this one arrive. She was on the back patio washing clothes when the swarm arrived. They moved right into the empty box with causing a problem. I came home from school that day to the surprise.

Even though I’ve never opened their box to peek inside, I know they have to be Africanized bees. That’s what we have in Honduras. That’s what everything is. And that’s probably the main reason I haven’t opened it. I don’t want to risk a neighbor getting stung since I live right in the middle of town.

But they don’t cause any problems. The colony can only grow so big because the box is small. A couple puffs of smoke keeps them calm when it comes time to cut the grass in front of them.

This means that I have no idea what they’re doing inside of their box. All the comb could be nice and straight or maybe it’s a curving mess. The trap hive is a rectangular-shaped Tanzanian-style tbh. I use to manage several of these types of top bar hives and I made some trap hives to catch swarms for filling them.


There are four frames with wide top bars (I can see the nails that go into the side pieces.) On either side of them is a normal top bar. This gives them a space equivalent to six deep frames.

It’s not much room. They’ve swarmed, at least once. There may have been other times that I haven’t noticed. It keeps them small and less defensive. It should also keep them with a young queen.

If I remember right, this box has never caught bees for me when I’ve hung it up in a tree. I’ve dumped a swarm into it several times but it never worked when I was actually trying to bait a swarm into it. I specifically remember this trap because one of its entrances is just a knot hole. It makes this box unique.


So you could almost begin to call this a survivor hive after two years of zero manipulations. But maybe it has to go at least another season yet. What makes a colony a survivor can be debatable.

They always have lots of activity around their entrance meaning they are probably healthy and populous. This morning they were bringing in some pollen. Most was a pale cream while others were yellow or even a bit gold in color. Definitely they are surviving.

It will eventually get moved. Not right now, however. We’re still in the dearth. It will be less stressful once the flowers really begin blooming in force in another month. If I decide to take them up to the coffee apiary in the mountains, it’ll be Christmas time. 

In the meantime, I will just let them be, paying them an occasional morning or afternoon visit. I sip a cup of coffee and watch them.
--Tom 

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