June 19, 2019 • Category: First Year
Who doesn't like free bees? Especially when the free bees are your own.
Richard and I have caught many swarms over the years. Catching our own bees is always the most satisfying.
This swarm came from our home yard. I was feeding the nucs we are making for 2020. We don't always get to see a hive swarm. This time I did. The air was filled with a tornado of thousands of bees. The bees in the third nuc from from the end were marching out like their wings were on fire; just boiling out.
Prior to the swarm leaving the queen lays like mad. Usually you'll see brood from one side of the hive to the other. By the time beekeepers have an inkling the hive is going to swarm the brood is mostly capped and there are no eggs. What we see are the queen cells. All this is done to give the existing hive a fighting chance to live. The bees then starve the queen because ordinarily she's too heavy to fly.
When bees swarm the queen leaves along with about half the hive. She takes the young bees who have gorged themselves with honey. Young bees because they are better wax producers and will live longer. A worker bee at this time of year lives about 6 weeks. Honey because they need resources to build quickly. You correctly surmise this hive is done as a honey producing hive for the year.
This cloud of bees is trying to figure out where the queen went. She usually doesn't fly too far, around 30-50 feet from the original hive, to a branch or other structure. I've seen them on fence posts and even cars and motorcycles. They follow her pheromone and swarm up.
The best swarm is easy to reach like this one posted on our Instagram account. The swarm in the picture was 15-20 feet in the air. I pulled my F150 back to the tree. Richard got a 6 foot ladder. We ratchet strapped the ladder to the back of the bed. This is not an OSHA approved practice but it was secure enough to make Richard comfortable. He carefully trimmed branches and cut the limb. Then he climbed down and shook it into a Hive Butler. It is a great utility box for this use and many others. Visit their site and take a look.
While he was doing his work I was preparing another hive for the swarm. Putting some built foundation in the new box seems to help them stay. If you can put a frame of brood in from another hive that's even better.
A swarm will generally hang out for several hours before the scout bees have found a new home. Once that is determined they up and fly away.
Today we had the joy of catching our own bees.