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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    553

    Default swarm in a screech owl tree...

    So I got sucked into another extraction which is most likely above my skill level but no on in my bee club is stepping up to help.

    Homeowner has an oak tree that goes thru their back porch and a screech owl family lives in it via a small hole (they are small birds). It got swarmed big time. My friend from a wildlife rehab center went with me and we put a camera with the video going on a string down the hole followed by a small flashlight and took video...no owls. We are hoping they left when the scout bees started and the babies were big enough. Either that or we missed them but two many days have gone by, no way would they be alive by now.

    Next step is to try to extract with the homeowner's cooperation so I built another Hogan type trap and will string it up there tonight. I'm hoping I learned from my last one enough...details I didn't think (know about) before, like keeping the tunnel dark so they head toward the light, yes they do chew thru paper; make sure the homeowners really will cooperate and not just give lip service. I'm making the husband put the box up; It entails climbing a ladder and we are already on a porch on a hillside.

    So wish me luck, if we can't get it up and attached I'll have to try the funnel at the entrance without a box and then plug the hole in a few weeks. Homeowners showed me two other feral hives on their land in other oak trees...they are open to swarm traps and starting their own hive.

    Here is a picture of the tree I'm dealing with.
    BeeTreeScreechOwls.jpgBeeholeEntrance.jpg

  2. #2
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    Nov 2011
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    553

    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Sorry, I have a question.

    How long can I keep this box up in the tree (if it is working) knowing there are no brood cells or a queen before I take it down and harvest what bees I get to combine with one of my weaker swarms? Or is that not a feastible thing to do? And...I did make the funnel big enough for the queen if she chooses to come out...but not that big the workers will find their way back in very easily. thank you!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    553

    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    We got the hogan type trap up last night....I built the trap, homeowner put it up. Yup; me with the brains, Mark with the brawn. They will tell me today if it is secure and working. No way can I switch out a frame with brood in a week or so. Therefore I need to keep it up long enough for most of the bees to vacate and take it down and somewhere else in time to still add a frame of brood and get a queen. Is it doable?

    Picture for those interested...please do give your opinions too. thanks!

    HoganTypeTrap800.jpg
    MarkHangingTrap800.jpg

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Winhall, VT
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    1,070

    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Looks good! I do think Cleo advocates just putting the entrance on for a few days to let the bees acclimate to it before putting the box on but the bees should figure it out if it is the only way out. Good luck!
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    DFW area, TX, USA
    Posts
    956

    Thumbs Up Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...


    I'm interested in every detail, keep the pictures and narrative coming. You are filling another gap in my education.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Oh good, I am glad someone is interested! I think if you do a search on CHogan you will see he is most helpful in explaining the methodology .... he even sent me pictures. My first attempt at another hive was a failure; homeowner got stung in the neck although I asked her to keep her distance and decided she did not want to participate. She did, however, leave the bees alone and said she will live with them. This is just my 2nd attempt and I learned from the first one to use dark material as the bees will seek the light they see thru the funnel. The funnel is inside the small box attached; here is a bad picture of it but the best I could do. What will be interesting the my main question is what to do with the queenless bees who will now be a bit dated by the time I harvest them....combine with a weaker swarm so they have more workers or try and get them to raise a new queen. That is; if I succeed!
    FollowTheLight800.jpg

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Park City Ky
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    1,603

    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    It won't matter how long you leave the box there. Without brood, they will simply fill it with nectar and use it for honey storage.

    You will likely get lots of bees. You will initially get field bees, but as time goes on, and housekeepers, fanners, cleaners, etc, come out for cleansing flights, you will get some of them too.

    For this method to work BEST, you need unsealed brood to lure the queen and other mix of bees to come out and use this as a brood chamber.

    If this hasn't answered your specific question let me know.

    cchoganjr

  8. #8
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Thank you...there really is no way for us to take the lid off and put in brood while it is up in that tree. I figured it would be good to save some bees instead of having them all sealed up and killed. Could be a waste of time I suppose. The swarm was in the tree 4 days before we got the trap up. Would she really have that much comb to lay in after 4 days?

    Here are my specific questions: is it worth transporting the bees to my apiary after a certain amount of time and try to requeen it by placing brood frames in there? If so, how long should I wait before moving it?

    Would a better plan be to combine them with one of my weaker hives instead? And again, how many weeks should I wait before sealing up the box and moving them?

    Thank you again Mr. Hogan. What you would like about this homeowner is he has 2 additional feral hives on his property and will allow me to experiment with them to catch / create new hives. Maybe next spring when I have more time..... and before they swarm again!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Park City Ky
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Swarms can make an unbelievable amount of comb overnight, much more in four days.

    Without unsealed brood in the trap, it will be hit and miss as to how many bees will be in the trap. If I understand your operation, you have a one way cone screen which prevents them from going back to the tree. Depending on how large the colony is, you should have lots of bee in 36 to 48 hours. If I had three or more pounds of bees, I would move them and add a queen.

    To combine with a weaker hive, or start a new hive, is totally dependent on what you need. Do you have a weak hive that needs bees or do you want another hive. If you have a one way screen funnel, you will not have to wait weeks, but rather days to get most of the bees. You will get the field bees rather quickly, then as the others come out to rest, or cleansing flights you get them. The colony weakens rather quickly, making it vulnerable to small hive beetles and wax worms. Total time for a well established, large colony is not normally over 4 to 6 weeks.

    Good bee trees are worth their weight in gold. You can take multiple starts and still not damage the feral colony. If you get the feral queen, the tree will make themselves a new one. Just don't overtrap and kill the colony.

    cchoganjr

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    553

    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    I checked on the setup last night. The bees were smelling the hive via some of the holes made from the staples and were clustered, fanning around the holes but could not get in. Some were using the nuc. So I sealed up the holes, lifted the nuc lid a little and the homeowner will keep monitoring. I won't get back there to look until this weekend.

    Depending what I need (good question). I do not need another hive but would consider it as I'd like to start splitting hives next year (I'm with a group that will split non-treated 'survivor' stock bees and sell for $75. a pop). Of course that depends if all the hives survive. I'd like to start learning how to graft and raise queens. But I'm jumping ahead, this is my first year.

    First I have to figure out if it would benefit my weak combined swarm. I put in 2 frames of brood in on 5/12 and combined a small swarm in there on 5/30 and need to figure out the math to see if it is too early to go in and look for a laying queen this weekend. If there is none I don't know what to do with them at this point. I only have one strong hive to steal brood from and I don't want to keep robbing them. If there is a queen I can either combine with them or try and start another hive with these bees. It will depend on how many go into the nuc.

    So some of my questions are: when does one 'give up' on trying to bring back a weak hive and / or create a queen?
    When should one look into a hive to see if there is a new fertile queen laying eggs from the date a frame of brood/eggs were given? I know we need 21 days to hatch but how many days until a queen should fly out, get mated and come back, start laying?

    It is all a learning experience and at least I'm using small swarms that would have never survivied on their own....so far.... thanks!

  11. #11
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    Feb 2010
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    Park City Ky
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    If you keep having a problem with bees going down, I would suspect a mite problem. it is keeping the colony too weak to expand.

    If you give a queenless colony a frame to make a queen, here is an approximation. 2-5 days to realize they need to make a queen and make a cell. 16 days for the virgin queen(s) to emerge, 2-4 days for her to mature before she goes on her maiden flight for breeding, 2-3 days for breeding, then 1-3 days for her to start laying, then 21 days for her first female worker brood to start emerging. add all this up, and you are looking at 42 to 50 days from the time the eggs were given to the hive, until you have new workers from the virgin queen. Well over a month and a half.

    If you put eggs in there on 5/12 and 5/30, no, it has not been long enough for you to have a laying queen. Somewhere around 10 -16 June she might be there laying.

    Hope this helps.

    cchoganjr

  12. #12
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Follow up on this 6/16, the bees found a bee sized hole to go back into the oak. Homeowner is learning more about bees and getting into it so willing to keep trying. We plugged up the hole and opened up the funnel all the way. I can get the medium frames out of the trap out so will wait a week, see if the bees are using the platform and if so will bring over a couple frames of brood next weekend.

    questions: do I bring over nurse bees like I would a split and treat it like a split hoping the brood would hatch?
    2nd I'm reading conflicting reports if the queen will really come out or not...is it a 50/50 chance 'if' they start using this as a brood chamber?
    Last, how long do I keep the trap out up there once I put in the brood frames and see the bees are still using the landing board and going thru the trap out?

    thanks!

  13. #13
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Oh and P.S. Mr. Hogan my week swarm is now full of frames of brood and has a definite laying queen! I am a little impatient waiting for the population to rise as my other 2 hives are going like gangbusters and this one still is not. I may take a peek today.... K

  14. #14
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    CaBees..... Do not bring any bees with the frame of uncapped brood. All you need is the brood, to entice the queen to come out and investigate who is laying eggs in her house, and to get your brood tenders (nurse bees) , house cleaners, fanners etc into the trap.

    Don't know where the conflict is, but I can say with certainty, that if you can mate the tree and the trap very closely together you have a 90% chance of getting the queen into the trap. Of course to get her, you will need to check often after the first 24 hours of introducing the frame of brood. The queen will use the trap as another brood chamber and will go back and forth as she needs room to lay eggs. (To test this, simply leave the trap in place for a month or six weeks, and see how many frames she has layed eggs in). She is simply moving horizontal, the same as a TBH, rather than vertical as in Langstroth. Houses, barns, etc, the chances of getting the queen go way down, because it is normally more difficult to get the trap near the feral brood nest. Also more difficult to close all entrances. Still, the trapping system gets you starts, and you get the right mix of bees for the start.

    I leave the trap in place until I get 3-5 pounds of bees in the trap, then I move the frames from the trap, add a queen and start a new colony. Leave the trap in place and trap again. If on the second go you have 3-5 lbs of bees in 36-48 hours, move them again. If not, you have weakened the hive and may need to wait a few days, perhaps two weeks for the feral colony to build back up. Don't overtrap if you don't want to eliminate the feral colony.

    If you get the queen, and you relocate her, the feral colony will almost certainly make themselves a new queen in Spring and early Summer during a good flow. However as Summer progresses, the queen cuts down on number of eggs, and it is possible that by the time the bees in the feral source realize they do not have a queen, there may not be a viable egg to make a queen. In Kentucky it is already too late to chance taking the queen. I would not take a queen after 10 June for fear the feral source would not be able to make a queen, and the colony would die, (they might make a queen, but I would not want to take that chance). (If you take the queen, it will be a minimum of 40 days before the feral source will start replinishing the colony with workers). I would wait until next Spring during a good heavy flow,

    You can tell if the trap is working, if the guard bees have moved to the front of the trap.

    Hope this has helped.

    cchoganjr

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    UPDATE 7/4

    Circumstances kept me from checking on this trap or bringing a frame of brood over for 2 weeks. Homeowner sealed the hole better and reported the bees were using the trap out box's platform to go in and out. So I brought over one frame of brood 2 days ago, beeless and climbed up the ladder. No drawn comb, no indication they were expanding to the trap out box and very few bees. I put it in and a few bees came out of the hole from the tree but nothing spectacular. My guess is the feral hive is dwindled with a possibly dead queen or they left and didn't come back because of the trap out. I'm giving it until Fri and will take the box down; doubt I will find anything in there. So far I'm batting zero but maybe next year I'll have easier circumstances and can take my time....

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    553

    Default Re: swarm in a screech owl tree...

    Last update, No bees, trap came home. My mistakes? Possible killed the queen when we were trying to save the owls, possible should not have put the funnel up in the beginning but left the hold open for a week or two so they use the box. This was such a bad position and a tiny hole. I am also hoping they just left but I think 6 weeks and no bees they did not raise brood and died out. Next year will work on finding easier locations and trying the Hogan trap correctly and take the time...

    Oh, and then I answered an email and this morning picked up 2 double deep hives and other equipment for free in good shape plus a swarm had moved in! Isn't that funny?

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