Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SWARM SAGA FINALE submitted by beekeeper Gerard

The swarm (Swarm Saga I and II) that was 30 – 40 feet up in a tree decided to take up residence in the bait box (swarm lure) on Monday, 5/22.  I spotted it in the tree on Wednesday evening, 5/17.   That night it endured torrential rain and strong winds, and for the next 4 days it was exposed to rain, wind, overcast sky, and temps not above the mid-50’s.  It appeared to not move a wing.

Monday, after work, I checked and saw bees orientating in front of the bait box and I went back to check the tree.  The swarm was gone.  To verify that they were in the bait box I put my ear against the box to listen.  Yep, lots of bees in there.  I took the dogs for a walk back to the apiary, checking the treetops for any more swarms and didn’t see anything.   So I cut grass since it wasn’t raining at the moment.

I didn’t know which hive had cast the swarm but two hives in particular had been heavily bearding.  (I had put additional supers of foundation on to see if they would change their mind.)  So I got the dogs and went back to see if either of them had discontinued bearding and if my method worked.  No bearding on either hive so I figured it worked for one and that it was the other that had swarmed.   Reasonable, I thought.  As I turned to leave I saw this:

It was 7:15 p.m. and the light was fading.  I hurried the dogs back to the house, grabbed the parts for the second bait box (which is a single deep 8-frame hive), grabbed my jacket and boots, grabbed an empty cardboard box from the burn pile, and my bee brush.  I quickly set up the hive on a couple of concrete blocks I had back there, noticing that the grass in the apiary needed to be cut…..again.

I brushed the swarm down into the box, and they peeled off almost as one.  I took extra care at the center of the swarm, figuring that’s where the queen would be.  They were very docile with not many bees flying around.  I captured around 80% – 85% of the swarm and unceremoniously dumped them into the hive and closed it up.  I watched for awhile and dozens of bees were scenting at the entrance to attract those in the air and those left behind.   Bees that had dropped onto the ground were marching into the hive and I was pretty sure the queen was inside.  All good.

But, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  On my way out I saw that a softball sized group of bees had regrouped where the swarm had been.  I knew that they would eventually find the hive, but rain was in the forecast (of course) so I thought I’d help them out.  They were not pleased.  As soon as I started brushing them into the box they attacked.  I trust my protective gear, but hadn’t bothered with the bee britches, just blue jeans. 

Moving quickly, I brushed as many bees as I could into the box and took them to the hive.  I opened the hive and was met with angry bees boiling out.   Such a contrast to a few minutes ago.  I hurriedly dumped the bees, closed the hive, and walked quickly out followed by several bees that needed to let me know that I needn’t come back.  Gratefully I sustained only three venom injections.  Two through my blue jeans and one through a goatskin glove.  I feel healthier already.

I went back this morning to see how it all looked.  There was a low hum in the hive, a cluster of bees in the box, and a golf ball sized cluster of bees on the tree.   All’s well.

Any future swarms from this apiary (this season) will be gifts to the world.  I’ve taken enough…..for now.  I still have bait boxes in other locations and will continue to monitor and refresh those, but I want the genetics from this apiary to spread.  The virgin queens need good mates.

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