Plant poppies for your bees!

For the past few seasons, I’ve been planting poppies for my bees, saving the seeds and planting again. I started with ordinary “bread” poppies from the grocery store baking aisle. They start a bit slow, but then take off quickly. Poppies provide enormous amounts of pollen early in the morning. I’ve seen as many as seven bees on a single flower with pollen sacs loaded almost instantly. I don’t believe poppy flowers provide much nectar, if any. It’s interesting to see the slight changes in the colors of the flowers as pollen from other poppy growers finds its way into my little gene pool. Below, I’m linking a short video of what I do here at home to grow poppies for my bees.

Three different swarm collecting techniques

Today, I employed three different techniques to collect swarms on a miserably windy, chilly, and rainy day. The first was the “Set it, and forget it”, because it was close to home. I just sat the nucleus box right up against the swarm cluster and left the bees to slowly crawl in. I’ll pick them up tomorrow night.

With the second swarm (further from home), I used a bucket, and bumped the majority of the bees into it. Then I slipped a filter bag over the bucket and snapped the ring lid on. Once all the stragglers flew into the top, I cinched the slack up over the top of the bucket and closed it with a rubber band. This is much easier on the bees, as there are no frames swinging around and shifting on the bumpy ride home. Once I got home, I dumped the bees into a hive and opened the filter bag to release the stragglers.

The third swarm was just out of reach, in a tree, so I used the “Bucket on a Pole” method. A very straight forward and popular way to get a swarm down, but the wind made it interesting.

Triple swarm call!

One thing I’ve learned over the past few years of chasing swarms is to never get tunnel vision on a swarm call. Especially during prime swarm season. Always walk around and look up into the trees and at nearby buildings for a beeline. If you find one, you’ve very likely found the source of your swarm. Then, keep looking around for other swarms that the caller did not see. Below is a video of what started out as a call to remove a single swarm. Then, plans changed. Also, always have more than one swarm box setup in your vehicle. I never leave home without at least 5.

Making a Bumblebee nest box

It’s pretty common to find a mouse nest in beekeeping equipment. What isn’t common is the knowledge that bumblebees love to use abandoned mouse nests as their own nesting sites come spring time. This is why bumblebee nests are often underground, but I’ve also removed them from garages (under a pile of rags), and under garden ornaments; anywhere they can “sniff out” an old mouse nest. I happen to think bumblebees are pretty interesting to watch, so whenever possible, I make bumblebee nest boxes, and this is how I do it.

Honey Bee removal PA
Deermouse nest in unused equipment.

I always keep my eyes open for cheap birdhouses at yard sales and flea markets. The one pictured was three dollars. I simply place the mouse nest inside, and combine it with some saved up dryer lint. Some people use flower pots instead of birdhouses, but I’ve never had success with those.

Bee removal Berks County 19601
Bumble bee nesting box.

The last step is, ironically, to keep birds out. So I cover the entrance with mesh. If it smells sufficiently mousy, a mother bumblebee will find it wherever you put it. I think I will put this one right outside a window.

Bumble bee nest
1/2 inch mesh in place to keep out mice and birds.

One of my nest boxes from last year was too slick, and too small. It was eventually occupied, but the colony never flourished. View the problem here.