Swarm Season is Here

 

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I’ve gotten two calls for swarms in the last two weeks and both were a little unusual. The first was from a woman about 20 miles away who said she went to clean her above ground swimming pool, and found that there were bees all over the ground. She emailed me a photo from not too close up, and I confirmed that they were honey bees. She said she didn’t see any hanging from the pool or anywhere else. A short while later, I heard from Betterbee that our packages had arrived a day early and we could pick them up.

That being a priority, I told the woman not to do anything drastic like spraying the bees to kill them, that I’d call her back when I got home, and that there was a chance they’d be gone by that time. Sure enough, after we made the 3 hr round trip, the swarm had left.

A week later, a friend in town about 7 miles away called in the early evening to say he had a swarm in one of the trees in the backyard. I asked the  usual questions like how long it had been there and how high up in the tree it was. He said it wasn’t there in the morning and it was near the ground, so I told him I’d be over. What I didn’t realize before I got there was that “low to the ground” meant on the trunk, not on a low hanging branch. I would have brought my bee vac, if I had known.

I got my equipment together, including an empty 10-frame deep box and some frames of drawn out comb. Next, I attached a bottom board using hive staples. Then I screwed a piece of pine in place to close off the entrance. Finally I grabbed a screened inner cover that I keep on hand for just such an occasion, a ratchet strap, some screws and a screwgun.  note: you can find plans for the screened inner cover in my book  Build Your Own Beekeeping Equipment.

 

A closer view of the swarm wrapped around the trunk and going from the ground up to about four feet.A Wrapped Swarm

I ended up using a sheet of paper to “shave” the bees off the tree. They were many layers deep. As I filled the sheet, I poured them into the box. Every so often I would hold the box up to the tree to see if there were any reaction.

 

 

Eventually I figured I had the queen because when I held the box up to the tree, the bees started marching down the tree and into the box. You could really smell the strong lemony pheromone that the bees were giving off and see them fanning to attract the rest of their sisters. They covered a full ten frames.IMGP8277

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It’s a good sign when the bees start marching down into the hive box. This is a pretty good indication that the queen is in there.

I screwed the screened inner cover on top and added the ratchet strap for extra security, then loaded them into the back of the truck.

All in all counting travel, it took about 2 1/2 hrs from the time I left my house until I got home, and it was dark when I arrived. I placed the hive in a cool spot in the backyard and let them sit for a day, occasionally giving them some water. The next day we moved them to their permanent location. I hoped that by keeping them in the box for a day, they would adjust and not abscond. When we placed the hive in it’s new home, we added a box of foundation on top to be sure they wouldn’t feel crowded and since a new swarm is anxious to build comb, they would have frames to draw out when they felt they were needed. Immediately upon opening the entrance, bees started cleaning out the hive and taking orientation flights. We hope they do well.

 

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About Beekeeping in the Berkshires

Here at Berkshire Farms Apiary we've been keeping bees and making honey since 2005, with hives in most of the surrounding towns. We also make pure beeswax candles, lip balm, and hand salve, as well as give presentations. As secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association, I am very active in the local beekeeping community.
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4 Responses to Swarm Season is Here

  1. Is there a Southern Berkshire Beekeepers group???

  2. We meet at 7pm on the 4th Tuesday of the month, upstairs in the Community Room at Price Chopper Supermarket, on State Road, North Adams MA. When you enter, go right, through the produce dept, through 2 sets of swinging doors, and up the stairs.

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