My first cutout
This year seems to have been a good year for swarms, even after the late spring. We put out 4 swarm bait boxes and ended up filling 3 of them and using the fourth to do a split. I scrambled to put up another 2 swarm baits out but the bees had other ideas and decided to swarm into the owl box we had put up previously. So we geared up for a cutout and did it in a short time in a Sunday morning. It went mostly ok and you can see the photo report here:
I have a few questions after the experience that I'd love input on:
First is how do you cut and grab the combs without squishing bees or letting the combs drop? I was the one up on the ladder and it was pretty hard to get a firm hold on a comb without squishing it or a bee. All the combs are of course new wax and they were covered with bees. I ended up dropping 2 of the 5 and was really worried I was going to kill the queen.
Second is how do you make sure most bees go to the new box instead of returning to the old spot? We went back a few days later and although we had left the new box just a couple of meters below the owl box there were still a bunch of bees clustering in the old spot. I went in with a plastic box and scooped up most of that cluster into the new box and I could see some of them returning right back. Could this be an indication that I indeed killed the queen? I'd love for this swarm to make it as they were huge.
Finally what should I do to make the owl box less attractive for bees? Especially now that a swarm has been in it the smell is probably pretty attractive. I had assumed that the extremely large entrance (for bees anyway) would solve this but apparently it hasn't. Any other ideas, besides hoping for an owl to nest in it next winter (we set it up way too late)?
Re: My first cutout
If the comb is older it is much like cardboard and easy to handle. New wax is difficult to work with, as it is very soft. To me new wax seems to have the consistency of butter. If it is fresh try to not hold many parts of it. Don't worry if you crush some of it, the bees can fix it. What you should try to do is to cut the comb and let it gently lay in your hand. If you can cup your hand the bees underneath will have room to crawl out.
The best advice I can give on cutouts is to search youtube for JPtheBeeman and watch his videos. He is awesome.
You can use beequick to drive the bees out of the old space. It doesn't hurt them, but they don't like it at all. A beevac is a very important tool as well.
Not sure how to make an owl box less attractive. Maybe putting an owl in it would help.
Re: My first cutout
Just made a fuller writeup of the whole process on the farm blog if anyone is interested. Here's the link:
The swarm isn't doing too well. The method for attaching the comb to the frames was clearly not ideal. Our impression was that just stitching the tops of the frames into the top bar would have resulted in a better outcome than the wire mesh idea we saw in other places. The combs ended up sagging a lot making most of the comb pretty crooked.
Re: My first cutout
I drill holes in the endbars of my wooden frames next the existing holes but off to one side (both ends) I then run 30lb test mono thru these holes creating a support on one side of the frame. This way, as you cut your brood comb out you can lay it in the frames, and it has some support, I then apply 3 rubber bands. Keeps things nice and straight in the hive box. Also, as we go we place small amounts of fresh comb wax between each frame so they do not shift during transport. I have only done 5 cut-outs thus far, but my mentor has done many, and he has taught me a lot. Also, spend $22 at home depot and buy a Bucket-vac! It's priceless! Caught a couple queens with it so far..Unharmed! Drill 1 inch holes in the bucket and cover them with screen to reduce pressure....less is better. Cover holes with duct tape to increase pressure. Not an expert but this systems has worked well for me.