Catching a Fall Bee Swarm
I got a call from a mother in Santa Rosa, California, that a small swarm had moved into her back yard in a tree right above her kids play equipment. She told me that they had been there for three days.
Normally, bees hang around for only a day or two, so I knew I should hurry over there and hive the swarm. When we went into the backyard, there were a few bees around, but the swarm itself, was buzzing. I looked about 9 feet up and there it was.
The bees on the outer edge were dancing in figure eights with a passion. This usually means that the scout bees have found the place for the hive to settle and were telling the rest of the colony to go there. I placed a white tablecloth on the ground under the bees. On the edge of that, I placed a hive body with drawn combs and some honey to entice the bees to stay. I got my 5 gallon bucket and my spray bottle and climbed up the ladder.
Since I would most likely have some bees raining down on my head, I put my bee veil on. First, I sprayed a solution of sugar water on the cluster to keep them from flying and give them something to do, while I plotted how to get them. I placed my bucket under the swarm and raised it to touch the tree branch they clung to.
I figured that I was too late, as the last swarm I went to collect swarmed just as I got there and poof they disappeared into the sky. But, to my amazement I saw bees start landing on the landing board and, oh my goodness, they were fanning! Within 10 minutes the bees had all gone into the hive. I taped the top on, picked up my gear and went to report to the homeowner, who was watching from a window inside the house. I told her that there were still forager bees out looking for and gathering honey and that they would all be back inside the hive at dark. If I left now with the hive the bees would form back on the tree over the play structure, but if I came back at dark, I could take them ALL away.
Around 7:30p.m. it was almost dark and I picked up the bees after screening the opening and put them in my van and headed back home. I took them from the van and put them on a hive stand in my bee yard. The next day, I would give them some sugar syrup and a telescoping cover. And hope that they could put away enough stores for the winter when there is nothing to forage.
Well, the next day, my Chihuahua went into labor and she delivered four pups. That day flew by and I temporarily forgot about the swarm. The next day, I left in the morning to run errands and when I returned home, stepping out of the car, I heard a telltale sound of bees in a swarm. I looked up above the beeyard and there was a swarm, all right. I felt a little bad that my hives might feel the need to swarm, because I manage them so that they will not do this. Anyway, I walked with the swarm as they swirled across the yard and gathered about 60 feet away in a snowball tree. This time I got a nuc, which is half the size of a regular hive and removed 2 frames in the middle.
I trimmed away some of the branches of the tree and exposed the cluster. I clipped off one branch of bees and put them in. Then I clipped off the main branch and in they went. The bees filled the landing and began fanning. I went and got some sugar syrup to give them and by the time I came back the cluster was not to be seen on the tree and there were flying bees facing the nuc and memorizing their new home. Not wanting to lose them again, I decided to leave the nuc right there and worry about moving the bees later.
Moving bees is a big deal, because the bees use markers to know which hive is theirs. If you move them they will come back to the original sight. Unless you move them 2 feet or 2 miles.It seems that they forget their old home if you move them 2 miles away. (Bees normally forage in a 2-mile area.) Since I didn’t intend on moving them to one of my other locations, I now am committed to moving them in 2-foot increments.
On day one I moved them back one foot and up a foot on a stand. On day two I moved them two feet back. I will keep this up until I get them to my roadside stand, where I plan to put them in an observation hive for my customers to see. This was my 19th swarm for the year.
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