Oh Hap-BEE day!

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.

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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!

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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.

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Giving the branch a good shake, I gently dropped the swarm onto the sheet, as close to the entrance as I could get.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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