A weekend of swarms! – Part II

I mentioned last time that there was more swarm news over a very busy weekend.  Of course, the first swarm settled itself in a tree and I captured it in the usual fashion.  During a part of the process of catching the first swarm, I witnessed two other swarms leaving two of my other hives simultaneously!

A swarm in a pine tree
The pine tree swarm. It grew quite a bit as the bees settled later on

Rats!  I failed in preventing uncontrolled swarms!  I had looked in on each of the colonies several times in the weeks prior to the fateful weekend and saw no clear evidence of crowding, queen cells, lack of new eggs…the stuff that sort of signals that a swarm is eminent.  I supered up the hives with extra honey supers and went on my way without splitting the hives that eventually swarmed.  You see, a split is a sort of controlled swarm where I take a number of the bees, brood, honey and pollen and start another colony.  Typically, a split will open up some room and avoid wild swarming.  I usually have pretty good luck in catching the right conditions and avoid swarms…but not his year.

So, as I trudged across the yard, I watched as two hives poured forth bees in great number.  A swarm coming out of a hive is pretty impressive.  Imagine 10-20 thousand bees per colony in what appears to be flying chaos!  I watched as the swarms buzzed around and settled nearby and low.

Swarm Movie
Click to see a video I took of the swarm starting to collect on the pine tree

The first swarm settled in a pine tree 20 feet from the apiary in a pine tree about 4 feet off the ground…easy-peasy.  The second swarm was just a few feet from that swarm, but they were far more gravity-challenged.  It’s fairly weird, but the second swarm plopped right down on the ground under a bush.

Now I have talked about getting swarms out of trees by shaking them into a hive box and that’s how I handled the pine tree swarm, but how does one shake a colony off of the ground?  Well, I didn’t…luckily I had a screened bottom board with large screen in place such that the queen and bees could crawl up through the bottom board (floor of the hive) and into the typical white box.   I just set the empty hive right over the swarm-on-the-ground and let them be for a week.  When I returned, the swarm, queen and all had migrated upward into the hive body!

So, while I am not thrilled that three colonies swarmed, I am always delighted when I get a chance to catch swarms and I would rather catch one of my swarms than let it get away.  Assuming they do well, I will have more colonies than I have ever had before which may make things interesting…and may make a lot of honey…next year!

Other bee stuff

6 thoughts on “A weekend of swarms! – Part II

  1. My parents started off with one hive. They ended up with nearly 200 of them a decade later. They went from a hand crank two frame extractor to a 50 frame electric one. They went from a small plastic tub to a huge uncapping tank. They went from some glass bottles to 50 gallon drums. Never once did things reduce in size when it came to bees. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

  2. Ed, that’s my fear! I have already grown to many more hives than I even planned on having when I started! I don’t need too many more hives!

    Granny Sue – indeed it has been wild! Too wild!

  3. I think you need your own tv show. There was The Croc Hunter, The Turtle Guy, you can be Bee Man!!!! They could just have a camera crew following you along on ALL your many adventures, including the bees!!!!! What do you think?

  4. Gracious! I can’t imagine how lucky you must feel that they didn’t fly to some far away place where you couldn’t retrieve them.
    Question: When they swarm, does the original queen and hive die? OR is a new queen made and she takes off with many of the workers following her?

  5. The original queen and about half of the colony leave in the swarm. In the source hive, a number of queen cells were made in preparation of the swarm and they time it such that hours to days after the swarm happens, new queens emerge, duke it out until one remains and then parents the new growth in the old location. The old queen in the swarm, assuming a new location is found, will establish a new colony and parent its expansion in a new location

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