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Western PA Beekeeping Meeting

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 16:04

Just home from the Western PA beek meeting and I learned a lot more this year than last.   Some of it good, some of it helpful in retrospect.

Feral Swarms

The best talk was a tutorial on catching feral swarms. I had no idea this was a “thing”, but the guy giving the talk lives in western Ohio and caught 64 swarms in two months. He constantly bought new hives and ended up with three different yards with 15-20 hives in each, all feral swarms. Primary cost: hives and 2700 miles on his truck.

Feral swarms aalso, it turns out, have amazing genetics relative to package bees from the south (duh). One swarm built 17 frames in a double deep in two weeks, he put on two mediums, those were built in two weeks, then by the end of the flow he had 2 mediums and a deep full of capped honey.

One yard of feral swarms produced 550 pounds of honey from eight hives. That’s 70 pounds her hive, I’m happy if I get over 40 from a hive.

So, hey look, we own two acres of wooded land a mile from here, and that land is within a couple miles of forests and wooded parks. I wonder how many traps I can put up, and more importantly, where I’d put all the bees.  I also have friends who live within a mile or two of the two main wooded parks in Pittsburgh (The City of) and will ask them if I can put swarm traps on their property.

Traps are easy to make out of 1/2″ plywood, two sheets and some 1x2s will make 5 swarm traps.  Just make it the size of a deep, removable lid, 1 1/2″ entry hole, and ratchet strap it to a tree as high as possible.

Dying Hives


It hit the upper 40s today so we cleaned out the three hives that deaded out during winter. It will be 70F in Tuesday and we don’t want any bees rotting/decomposing in the hives. (10 years ago we had 2′ of snow on the ground around this time.) We recovered maybe 10 or 15# of honey and fed the surviving hive a pound of protein patty. It’s going to be warm enough for them to do cleansing flights starting tomorrow but there’s no food out in the wild.

One thing I overheard at the meeting was that it was so cold in Ohio that bee clusters couldn’t survive going and fetching honey from other parts of the hive.  The bee cluster generates warmth by the bees dislocating their wings(!) and vibrating their wing muscles.  It should be close to 90F in the top of the hive, so it’s normally safe for bees to leave the cluster for food then return.  It’s possible that it was so cold last month that our hives suffered the same fate — the cluster ran out of fuel and it was too cold to go for more fuel.

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