Swarm season

This year, for some reason, there seems to be a whole lot of swarming going on. Maybe it’s the bees way of trying to make a come back with all the hives that have been lost in the past few years. We started this year with 2 hives, and so far we have had 3 swarms! Toby caught the first one, but we missed the second one. We were actually outside talking about how it would be a perfect day for swarming when we saw them fly overhead, already having found their new home deep in the woods. Well Tuesday I caught my first swarm! All by myself! ME!! Who is just a little afraid of being stung because I tend to swell up like a tick, itch all over, get a little bit of a speeding heart rate thing going on. I was outside planting a few things on the roof when the air got louder. I looked over towards the hives and saw a swarm coming out and making a cloud over by the edge of the woods. They landed on a very low branch of a dead cypress tree.

I called Toby and he suggested we just let them do their thing. He knows how I feel about handling the bees, and he wasn’t able to come home from work. But I didn’t want to lose them, so I went out and put some Lemongrass Essential Oil on the top bar hive to try to attract them. Then I went over to the swarm and had a talk with them to let them know where the new hive is. They didn’t seem to understand. So, I started moving around, wiggling my butt, and doing a little bee dance for them. But that just seemed to make them agitated. (Maybe I told them to ‘get stuffed’ or something??) So I went back to my roof and had some lunch while contemplating what to do. I decided that I could do it and I wouldn’t get stung. So, I put on my thickest jeans, two long sleeved shirts, wool socks and hiking boots, padded winter gloves, and a bee hat and headed for the swarm. I brushed them into a bucket and dumped them in the top bar hive. It took two trips to get most of the swarm and when I went back for the third time they were all so angry that I couldn’t catch any of them. No Stings! But when i went to close up the hive, they weren’t really staying inside…

By that evening, they were all clustered outside on the front. Not a single bee inside. My happy high from catching the swarm started to plummet. I must have left the queen on the tree by mistake. Now I felt like a total heel! I’d doomed the bees!

I’d hoped they would go inside the hive, or at least fly off to find their queen. but they stayed that way for two days. So I called our friend Carl, a local experienced beekeeper. He said that he felt like they wouldn’t remain clustered like that if their queen wasn’t with them and that for some reason, they must not like the top bar hive. He suggested that we spray them down (to make them heavy so they wouldn’t fly off), and put them back in the hive with some sugar water (for food since they hadn’t eaten in 2 days) and open brood (to keep the bees in the hive to nurse the babies) and close them in for a few days, in hopes that they would make a home. So we did just that. We used sugar water to spray them off, so they would have some food to clean off them selves, and put a bag of sugar water on the bottom of the hive (with a little slit in it for them to collect the food). Toby tried to get some open brood from another hive but it had been raining and they were not happy to have their hive opened. Once the bees were in the hive, we taped the opening shut so they couldn’t just climb back out. Since it had been raining, the tape came off by the next morning, but it seems like they might stay. The true test will be to see if there are eggs in the comb in a few weeks.

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