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Our First Swarm Capture | Speedkin

Our First Swarm Capture

Thursday the 12th.  We were all at the tail-end of a week-long pukefest.  Cody came running in the house, as only Cody can, excitedly announcing that we had a swarm.  He’d been moving that tree & brush from area we cleared out for the new hives and noticed a swarm on one of the branches he’d moved the day before.  Yep, sure enough, in the new brush pile by the lagoon, there buzzed a good-sized swarm.

It was low to the ground and would be easy to get.  A great way for us to experience capturing our first swarm!

While beebopping around the yard, gathering supplies, we heard more buzzing in the treeline.  Yep, sure enough.  A second swarm.  Can’t see it?  It’s up there.  Waaaay up there.

Um.  Yeah, maybe we’ll have to let this one go.  Charlie offered to climb the tree but, dang, it was probably 35′ up there.  No way.  It left within an hour or two anyway so, by the time we got done with the first swarm, the second had left.

Isaac got some video of Charlie & me as we were whacking the bees into the box.

Being completely inexperienced and wholly unprepared, we were very glad that we got to do this right in our own yard where we had access to what we needed.  We set a medium hive body & 5 frames in a cardboard box to use to contain & transport them to their final home.

I’d do it differently next time but it worked.

See all of those bees to the left of the box up there?  They fell off of the swarm cluster as we got the rest of the bees into the box.  It was impossible to try and get a sheet under the swarm before we started because of all of the brush but I should have at least put one right up next to it, between the brush and under the box.  That would have allowed at least some of the bees to be caught on it for easier scooping & dumping into the box.

But the bees knew what they were doing.  I tried hard to get the biggest part of the clump in the box with the first whack or two, hoping the queen was in its center.  Must have been because the fallen bees quickly began their march into the box, following the queen.

It was an incredible process to watch.

Incredible.  This is one of those places where I’d use the word “awesome” if that word were not so horribly overused & deflated.  It would truly fit here.  I was in awe.

Charlie got this amazing close-up shot of the bee train.

I had to go in and out, suit up and unsuit, several times that afternoon due to being sick, so it took a few hours to complete.  We found them in late afternoon and didn’t get them hived until later that evening.  (Steve had to build a quick bottom board & fix up his prototype inner cover since we had no extras so we would have had to wait a bit anyway for him to get home.)  Once the bees were mostly in, I put the box on a sheet, gathered up the edges, and carried them over to the hive area.  Being so late in the afternoon, I worried that the scouts from the swarm would return and convince the swarm that they had found a great new home elsewhere.  I don’t know how effective moving the swarm box 250-ish feet would be in losing the scout bees but it worked for us this time anyway.  I got them set over there, mostly closed over the top of the box & draped it with the sheet so they’d feel secure in their new, temporary-ish home, leaving a small opening for entrance & exit.

By this time, the second swarm had left.  Whew.  Now I didn’t have to try and feel guilty for not figuring out some way to get them.  I figure both swarms were from our bees so I was happy to at least catch one of them.  The neighbors had complained about the lack of bees here before we got hives so we’ll just consider the other our donation to the “neighborhood”.

I set up a tire with some old boards across it for a hive stand in the hive area.  Once Steve got home from work, he threw together a bottom board and fixed up that wonky prototype inner cover.  We got the hive body with its five frames set up and dumped the rest of the bees from the box into the hive.  We set another five frames in there, topped with another medium box and set a tub of sugar water in there (with sticks, of course, for the bees to walk on, instead of drowning) since we had no extra boardman feeders left.  Topped that off with the inner cover — and here’s where we get all redneck on it.  We were out of flashing to make another outer cover so we covered it all with a Rubbermaid tote lid and weighted it down well with boards and a concrete block.  While there, Steve tossed a tire on each of the other sets of hives to further weight them down for whatever spring storms come our way.

Lessons learned:

  • Have some extra stuff on hand, for Pete’s sake!  We need to get some extra boxes, frames, bottom boards, inner & outer covers built ASAP for whatever swarms come our way.  Once we’ve been in this a few years, I assume we’ll have extras laying around but, for now, we don’t.  Need to fix that.
  • Keep some extra hive tools & brushes around.  I’d just loaned out our only hive tool & brush that very morning (or was it the day before?).  The hive tool would have come in handy for prying off the extra box from the top of the @#^&#% Carniolan hive — that’s where we got the box & frames for the swarm.  The brush was sorely missed when I was trying to get all of the bees into the box and, later, trying to get them all out.  I didn’t have any paintbrushes handy to use so unscrewed the handle of a broom and used the broom end.  That was far too rough on the bees.
  • I need to come up with some sort of “swarm kit” that’s packed and ready to go when we eventually get called out for swarms elsewhere.
  • Throwing up in  bee suit is not something you’d want to do on purpose.

4 Responses to “Our First Swarm Capture”

  1. bunkie April 15, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    wow diane! great pics! ‘awesome’ adventure!

  2. Paula April 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Very Very cool! I loved the dramatic music Isaac provided in the video :)


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