What an amazing experience this afternoon! Today I had the pleasure of capturing and hiving my very first swarm of bees! This couldn’t have come at a better time: on last inspection of H1, I had finally succumbed to the notion that they were in fact Queenless, and I was going to have to do another split. Their numbers had diminished tremendously, and I have a feeling they were on the verge of non-existence.
I was at work when I got a call from my oldest daughter. Returning home from graduation practice, she described driving up the driveway in a what looked like a “gnat cloud, only with bees”. She said that they were everywhere and had started to land in a tree that lines our driveway.
Racing home, I grilled Alaina: Do you see bees flying in and out of H1, H2 and H3? How many bees were flying in and out of H1, H2, and H3? How big of a branch were they landing on? How big was the swarm? Baseball sized? Soccer ball sized? Basketball sized?! My biggest fear was one of my hives had swarmed. I didn’t think it was likely because I always ensured there was plenty of room in the hive boxes, but you never can tell with nature.
When I arrived home, I donned my bee suit, veil and gloves. I usually don’t wear the full garb, but with my first experience with capturing a swarm, I wanted to be better safe than sorry. I took a ladder out to the drive to assess the situation.
The swarm was about ten feet up in the tree, and the size of a soccer ball attached to a basketball! I’ve never been very good at those “guess how many” are in the jar games, but if I were to take an shot in the dark, I would say there were about 25,000 – 30,000 bees! Using pruning shears, I snipped as many excess branches around the bees as I could, to make the branch that the girls were attached to lighter in weight. 25,000 honeybees are a little heavier than they look!
Once the branch was trimmed as best as I could get it without disturbing the bees, I had my assistant hold the branch steady while I used a pair of limb loppers to cut the base of the branch. <How lucky today was… my ‘assistant’ was a passerby who lived down the road. He said that he had been meaning to stop by; he was interested in beekeeping and wanted to know if he could watch while I did a hive inspection some time. Lucky him… Pointing up to the tree, I told him that if he wanted to help with a swarm capture now was the time! He ran home, got his bee suit and was ready to help with whatever I needed him to do. Honestly, I don’t know who was more excited, him or me!!> After carefully cutting the branch, we walked it to the bee yard where I had installed a sheet from the hive entrance to the ground.
Giving the branch a good shake, I gently dropped the swarm onto the sheet, as close to the entrance as I could get.
Creating a nice little slope for the girls to walk up, I picked up the end of the sheet and within seconds, the girls started marching their way into the hive!
After about a half an hour, most of the girls had marched their way into H1. The rest hung out on the front for another 15 minutes or so.
Within the hour, and thankfully before the storms moved in, the girls were all safely situated into their new home! I will give it a week before I pop open the hive to see what progress they have made.