Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eat . Sleep . Bees .

Eat. Sleep. Bees.

True enough but I couldn’t sleep.

I was obsessing about the one that got away. That swarm from my own hive. Bad enough that I hadn’t caught them, but they were still there as the skies darkened and it grew cold and rain pelted down. The thunder rolled and I thought of them being cold and hungry. I knew what I wanted:  To try again.

It rained all day.  At the end of the day it finally stopped raining.  I headed for the yard

They were still there, hanging much lower and less bees were clumped on the different branches and limbs. This looked like it was possible. I got the extension ladder out and set it up, this time going straighter and right up to within inches of the swarm.

I had a big pail on one arm and a shopping bag on the other. Inside it were my tree trimmers and bee brush.

My socks were over my pants and I had gloves on too. I trimmed the small branches to get closer. Then looping my arm around a thick branch to brace myself I held the pail under the swarm while I took the brush to the clump.
The pail got heavier and heavier but I was successful. Clump after clump I brushed off. Many fell on my hand and stung but I was determined

The air filled with bees. I climbed down carefully and poured the pail into a waiting hive. I watched as bees on the stoop walked inside the hive. That was a good sign. I hoped I got the queen.

Twice more I went up the ladder with the pail and brush and brought down more bees.

I had a sheet on the ground too and shook those bees into the hive as well (if you use a sheet, don’t use cloth as the bees sting it. I think plastic would work better.)

My gloves were so full of stingers that they looked bedazzled. Thank goodness most of the stingers didn’t reach my flesh. I put on sugar syrup and then packed up.

An hour later I saw them coming out of the hive and bearding all over the front. It was not a hot day so this was not a good sign.

It was growing dark and I needed to call it a day. I had done all I could. I got them.

Now it was up to them whether they would stay.
I went home and put my hands in a bucket of ice to reduce the swelling.

The next morning there was significant bee activity outside the hive, but on observation it looked like bees robbing the feeder inside.

I cracked the hive open to have a look …

It was empty.

The scoundrels had absconded. And no, they weren’t back up in that tree again.


Randy Emmitt said...

That hand is really swollen, sorry to read about it. Shame the bees did not stay after all that work. A few weeks ago I got stung 6 times in 2 days, I know how your feeling.

Last Sunday I had 4-5 pounds of bees swarm out of my hive and land 50 ft up a oak tree. Nothing I could do, but hope. Tuesday night I found my swarm trap full of bees, mine or otherwise I do not know. Now we have a hive in a tree as they are actually in an 8 frame deep box.

Beekeeper Barbara said...

Hey Randy. It is frustrating. I've talked to a couple beekeepers today that watched as their bees flew away. And another call about a huge swarm not far from my hives.... now I think they might be those abscounded bees of mine!

I'm interested in your swarm trap. How do you bait it? It sounds like you have it up in a tree as well?

I'd love to hear more about it.

Christopher Beeson said...


Great pictures and story. Sorry to hear they didn't stick around though!

I've read that if you provide a caught-swarm with a frame of brood (that's assuming you have one available) they won't leave. Bees (even a caught swarm) will stick around for sure if a frame of brood is present.

I have a swarm trap deployed near my house, baited with lemongrass oil, but it hasn't caught anything yet. None of my hives swarmed, nor our neighbors, and I suppose there just aren't enough "wild hives" in our area to have caught in the trap.

I'm considering asking the conservation department if I can deploy a trap on some public wooded areas next year to see if it works any better.


Chris said...

The next time you collect a swarm that has indeed already left a hive and you have retrieved them from some portion of the landscape, try this. Place a queen excluder between the bottom of your brood box and your bottom cover. Place the bees in the brood box, the bees can leave freely but the queen will be unable to. After a few days they should adjust to this new home...the scouts can attempt to scout but without the queen responding they should remain. After all you have retrieved them after their instinct to swarm had already been wrought.

Beekeeper Barbara said...

Chris, thanks for the queen excluder tip. A fellow beeker told me that one just recently and it'll come in handy.

I will update my blog about that swarm because I did end up getting them! I did give them some brood this time and they stayed.

Beekeeper Barbara said...

Chris - thanks too for the swarm trap update. I might try that next year.

As for finding swarms - a good place to call can be your City or Municipality and have your name on their call list. When our city has to deal with their property often bees are found and they need someone to call and come get them.