Monday, May 9, 2016

Catching Spring Swarms (With Lots of Pictures)

I'll say it again- we are in no way experts at this.  Read to be entertained and to learn about bees, NOT to learn how to be the best beekeeper :-).

Last week, while Jamey was outside, he spotted it hovering in the air over our yard not far away- a swarm of honeybees.  It didn't matter if they came from one of our hives or not.  We wanted those bees so he leaped (quite literally) into action.

He grabbed a top bar nuc (short for nucleus, a small hive) and tried to set it up in a nearby tree but couldn't get it situated securely.  He wanted to lure the recently departed colony into it so we could keep our runaway bees.  The nuc's colony had died this past winter, but it was still full of comb left behind (the honey left behind had been licked clean by our other bees).  Wanting to quickly find a safe spot for the nuc, he set it on top of the end of our chicken coop.  Within seconds, there were scout bees checking it out- no doubt attracted to the comb inside.  Soon, the swarm which was drifting the opposite direction, started drifting toward the nuc perched on the chicken coop roof.


Within thirty minutes or so, almost the entire swarm had tucked themselves into their new home.  Had Jamey not been outside at the time, all those bees would have been lost (to us).  The next evening, he moved the nuc into our bee yard along side our other hives.

Just a reminder- if you see a swarm of honeybees, don't panic.  Just stand by and marvel at it.  They will not bother you unless you actively provoke them.  They are too concerned with finding a new home.

But then!  The very next day, Sadie spotted another swarm- hanging on a branch of one of our peach trees.  Jamey was at work so that swarm got away.  I do not catch swarms.  I take pictures of them.

A couple weeks later, yet another swarm was spotted in a peach tree and Jamey knocked this one into a bucket and placed it in one of our empty hives with some bars of brood and food.  No sooner did he have that one tucked away and he spotted another swarm (this one was large) up in a tree at the edge of the woods and couldn't let it get away.  I'll tell you what happened in pictures...

I didn't get a shot of him pushing the bucket up and knocking it against the branch hard, causing the swarm to fall into the bucket but that's what happened next.

Bee Math: 

6 colonies going into the winter of 2015 - 2 died over the winter + 3 swarms caught in the spring =  7 colonies going into the summer of 2016 (for now)

Below you can see trimmings from overdue hive inspections.  This bowl was placed on our front porch.  Once the bees went home that evening, we took the comb inside to strain giving us a mini-harvest of almost a gallon of honey.

sticky bees that fell from the bowl, cleaning themselves

If hives are properly managed, this many swarms shouldn't occur.  We've had a busy spring and hadn't divided the colonies as we saw there was need to, so the colonies raised new queens and divided themselves.  This is obviously not ideal because you lose the bees that leave.  Sometimes, though, you're able to get a few back.
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  1. SO interesting!! Yippee for adding to your bee numbers....what a blessing. Hugs, Camille

  2. Oh my word!!! Did he get stung?

    1. Yes. About ten times...but mostly on his arms which could have been protected had he worn his bee jacket ;-).

  3. Fresh Honey is amazing...congratulations! donna

  4. This is so amazing! Your pictures are great! I'm so interested in your beekeeping and really enjoy your bee posts. Such an amazing part of nature!


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