In my blog I plan to chat about nature, crafts, baking, gardening, beekeeping, family, and whatever else seems appropriate at the time. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Capturing a Swarm

On Monday around 4:30 I got a phone call from a friend, who is also a beekeeper. She had a swarm and do I want to come and get it. I invited the Scribe (see Scribe Vibe blog, in my sidebar) to join me. She has asked me a ton of bee questions (probably goes back to her days from working with the newspaper) and she said Yes right away. She couldn't wait, and could she bring her son? I told her it would take about an hour and a half. My friend lives in the country about as far West as you can get, and I was taking it to our farm on the East side of town.

See the dark spot in the middle of the tree? That's the swarm.

Now see it? When you get a swarm it's usually because there are so many bees in the hive that they are crowded. Honeybees make their own new queen, then the old queen leaves the hive with half of the bees. She is somewhere in the middle of that mess of bees.

Did you know that only 1% of the population is actually allergic to bee stings. Most people think they are allergic because they swell when they get stung. EVERYONE swells when they get stung. If you are truly allergic to a sting you 1) go into anaphelactic (even spell checker doesn't know how to spell it) shock when you get stung and 2) you carry an epi-pen with you. They had an epi-pen, they are allergic, so I had them put bee hats on even though they were standing far from the swarm.

This is the busiest time of year for swarms. If you happen to see one, leave it alone and call your local extension office for the name of a beekeeper that will come and get it. If you are a beekeeper, put your name in with your local extension office, pest control places, and anyone else you can think of. It's a great way to start a new hive....unless you live in the south and have the Africanized honey bees to worry about. Here in the North, we don't have them (thank you God). Swarms are usually very docile. They are focused on their queen and finding a new home.

I'm trying to figure out the best way to get them down without losing a bunch of them along the way. I tried cutting the branch with a pair of large hand clippers but I couldn't cut through the branch. When bees are in a swarm, they are barely hanging on to each other. One thing you can do to distract them is to squirt them with sugar water. But it was chilly out that evening and I didn't want them to get cold. (and yes chilly out in May...we've had weather in the last two weeks from 88 to 44 degrees - crazy)

I decided to light the smoker just in case I needed it.

And we decided that my friend's husband would cut the branch with a pair of tree pruners while I held the limb.

Anytime you are around bees, you should always protect your face.

I smoked the area a bit...just to make ME feel better!

I climbed back up to the bees while he cut the branch.

You can see the bees on me in this picture and you can click on any picture to make it bigger. We lost a few when the branch cut, but not many. I was having a hard time maneuvering the branch around the other branches on the tree. My main focus the entire time was to not lose that cluster of bees. It was probably the size of a football.

I handed it down to my beekeeping friend...


I got off of the ladder...

and in the box it went. And I have no idea what I was doing here but it looks like I'm doing some Native American thank you to the Bee Goddess dance! The Scribe was taking all of the pictures for me.

Success!!! We put them in a cardboard nuc box to transport them. But my work is only half done. And while I'm fiddling around with the bees, getting them to settle in the box, The Scribe and her son went on a tour of my friends farm.

Before I left I had to check on my/her baby ducks! This is my farm friend who took the ducks off of my hands. Look how much they have grown and how happy they are!

See this post if you missed the time I bought ducks and ended up taking them to my farm friend. She has the most bee-autiful cows.

After they finished touring, we went to our farm with the bees in the cardboard box in the trunk of the car, praying the whole way that we didn't get hit in the rear end!

I had an empty hive on the farm. I took it down to the bottom hive body because the goal is to get the queen in the bottom hive body, and then you pray they will stay in the hive. Again the Scribe and her son took pics for me. When the queen goes into the hive, most of the bees will follow her.

There always seems to be a lot of bees on the lid of the box.

You shake them into the hive, then brush the last of them with a special soft bristle bee brush.

Being careful not to hurt them.

It looks easy, but these gals didn't want to go in.

A lot of them did, but many wanted to stay in the box.

I shook the branch a few times over the box and the bees started flying around...

At which time I backed up and the Scribe and her son got in my car!

It was getting cold out, it was pushing 9:00 p.m. (three hours instead of the 1 1/2 I predicted earlier) and these bees have been through a lot today.

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But they went in, the sun was setting, and I think they stayed. We'll see. It's been a week now so I will check on them the next nice warm day we have.

In the meantime, check out the Scribe's post and her thoughts on this adventure. Click here.

Cindy Bee


  1. Sounds like a interesting and long day for you all...Hugs Birgit

  2. That was the most interesting story/tutorial I've read on the internet today. yey internet and yey you for showing us what it's all about. That was awesome!

  3. sounds fun. The ducks sure have grown

  4. Cindy I was fascinated with this post. You explained the process so well it was like I was there watching it. I did not know any of this. Thank you I love this post. B


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