Friday, June 10, 2016

Swarm!

Late this morning, I walked outside and heard what I thought was a large engine coming from the neighbors place.   I went back in and then right back out for something and realized the sound was an awful lot like bees, so I headed out to the hives.  

In time to see the biggest orientation flight I'd ever seen outside the Sweetie hive.   Awesome!   I love watching those.  

But it was noisier than usual and then....then...just up a little higher and over about 20 feet, just above a stand of sumac I saw a lot more bee action.

The bees are not supposed to be over there.   And they never are over there in those numbers.

Which meant, of course, something unusual was going on.   Like a swarm.   I looked for a swarm cluster and didn't see one.    Because they had just barely left the mother hive.   As I watched, they started to cluster on two branches of one of the sumacs, about 10 feet high.  

I happened to have walked out at exactly the right moment to catch what was going on.

So, I called Eric, who luckily was between jobs and headed home fast.   In the meantime, I suited up. I noticed that there were two clusters so I prepped boxes for two new hives. [It's common for multiple queens to be in a swarm - the old queen and any extra virgin queens.]  I got the dropcloths, and two buckets and the loppers, thanking heaven the whole time that the clusters were so low.

By the time Eric got home, I was ready.   He suited up and got the ladder and when we got to the clusters, we found that they had joined - and on the lower branch, so that was lucky.

Eric got the ladder ready but because the cluster was over a lot of brush and brambles, we couldn't use the dropcloth, so I put the bucket on my shoulder and stood underneath while Eric cut.   The cluster was so low in the first place that the bottom of it already hung in the bucket.   All he had to do was drop it.   The smell was very strong - a swarming hive smells like lemon grass oil in a big way.   LGO is often used as a swarm lure.   Now I know why.

[New readers may be wondering if I was freaked out having 30,000 stinging pets flying around and all over my head.  Swarms are notoriously noisy but not aggressive.  They're not defending, so they only sting if you grab one wrong.  Mostly they crash into you - and crashing is not the same as stinging or attacking.   Plus, I have a great suit.  It's not totally sting proof, but it helps keep me calm and if the beekeeper is calm, the bees will be calmer.   So, no, I wasn't bothered.  This was not my first bee rodeo. See this post for my first cut out.  After that, nothing fazes me.]

Anyway, Eric dropped the branch in the bucket on my shoulder and I walked it over to the hives, slowly so the flying bees would follow.



I decided to use two boxes because most of the frames already have some comb in them. They won't be slowed down by starting from scratch.   Plus, this queen builds up super fast and I knew they'd be bursting at the seams soon.  I took some frames out of the top box and we gently took the branch out.   This was a 2 person job, so no pics.  

After the branch was in, I shook it off and dropped the bees in the boxes.   They went straight in - a very good sign.  Then we turned the bucket upside down and knocked the rest of the bees out of it into the box.  

Then we put the bucket in front of the hive where the stragglers immediately found the bottom entrance of their new home and went in.   This is very good as it means the queen was in the box and the girls were communicating well.  I replaced the frames and closed it up.



The whole swarm catch took maybe 15 minutes once Eric got home.   Fastest catch in the history of swarms.


This brings us up to 4 hives this year.  

9 comments:

  1. It sounds like you didn't lose any hives this winter?! That would be reat news!

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  2. Replies
    1. It was super lucky! Wish they were all that easy. I went into the motherhive today and they were still overflowing and the brood nest was backfilled. I did another split to give them more room. I hope it takes and they make new queens.

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  3. Nice! Congrats on the easy capture! =)

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    1. It was nice having an easy one for once. Here's hoping I get some actual honey soon.

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  4. WOW! First time to visit you and I get this amazing story. As you might guess, this is not in my repertoire of things I can do or ever have done! But I am fascinated. Congratulations! By the way, your yarn giveaway from 2011 drew me here. The photo was on a search I was doing for handspun yarns so shall meander there now.

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    1. Hi! Welcome to the blog. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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  5. I just came across this again and thought how much your first picture looks like a fish in a tree hanging by its tail!🤓

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