Friday, April 11, 2014

Catching Swarms of Bees 2 Days in a Row


My bees swarmed. They are in my backyard in the garden. I can see them from my kitchen window so it's easy to keep an eye on things. Yesterday when I returned from the grocery my husband told me he'd been watching them while they collected on the outside of the hive. He described the air full of bees and the sound. He paid attention and watched  them cluster together in a tree over our patio.

15 feet up.

I called a friend, John, who had two of his hives disappear last year to see if he wanted to try to capture this swarm. No self respecting beekeeper would say no to a free swarm of bees.

I should mention that the whole point of this operation is to catch the queen and not to get every bee into the box. Capture the queen and you will soon have all her little minions. 

When John arrived he, my husband, and I assessed the situation. My husband climbed up on a ladder with a limb cutter at the end of a long pole, John climbed a ladder on the opposite side with a box to catch the swarm when it fell. I stood on the ground ready to dump the captured swarm into a hive body. I also imagined the unusual 911 call I could have to make. Two men on ladders. Sharp tools. A swarm of bees.

Ready?

Cut.

Drop.

Close the box and wait to see if any bees hang around the entrance with their tails in the air, fanning their wings. This is to alert bees who didn't make it that Her Royal Majesty is inside. It means something completely different outside the door of a bar on a Friday night.

No fanning.

Time for round 2. If at first you don't succeed and all that. 

The plan was to execute a similar plan but this time I put a metal bucket at the end of a long pole, which John held directly under the swarm.

Cut.

Drop.

Bucket dumped into box.

Fanning.

You can't imagine how excited a bunch of beekeepers can get about some bees fanning at the entrance to a hive.

John left with about a hundred bucks worth of free bees and I was thinking I really needed to get into the blue hive the next day.

But I had to get my hair colored. While I was doing that my other hive swarmed. Can't a girl leave the house for 5 minutes? My husband had seen them swirling in the air over our garden but within 15 minutes they had completely disappeared.

You can't exactly make signs to put up around the neighborhood when you lose a swarm of bees. What would it say? "Lost. 10,000 stinging insects. Not particularly friendly. Answers to the name of..."

You see my point.

I came home and looked but didn't see them anywhere. I'm sure it makes my neighbors nervous when they see me out looking all over the property for something. I'm a lot of fun to live next door to.

Later as we were walking around the garden talking I noticed a few bees hovering around a branch of a cedar tree behind the garden shed. I walked closer. Here's what I saw about 7 feet off the ground.


 Need a closer look?


We formulated a plan that involved pulling the branch down so it was hanging directly over the hive body I'd set up. My husband's job was to cut the branch with a pole cutter when we both agreed we were ready. Luckily the branch was very pliable and I pulled it down to just over the hive body. It looked like they might drip like honey into the hive.


Pull. Gently. Gently...

Cut!

Cover.

Observe fanning at the entrance.

Feel awesome. 

 My husband, the accidental beekeeper. There's kind of an adrenaline rush to swarm catching, which is why he's posing.


There you have it. A brand new hive perfect for a colony of bees to start all over in. Even bees need a fresh start sometimes. You know how couples sometimes do those team building/communication exercises? Well my new bee wrangler said "Marriage building through beekeeping."

Hey, it could be a thing.

Click here to read an article from Psychology Today about why.


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