Friday, May 11, 2012

Tis the Season for Swarms

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.  But by my calculations this swarm will be worth a silver spoon by June.

The swarm calls were coming in fast and furious to Ontario beekeepers this last week.  When we got a couple days of nice warm weather it was like the starting gun at a race.  And the bees were off...

I had a frustrating time.  A man called my parents about a swarm and it turned out the phone number wasn't right - whether it was given or taken wrong didn't matter and unfortunately he didn't call back.

Then a second swarm - a fairly easy reach on an arbour didn't go well when the clump was brushed and missed the box.  It all hinges on that queen.  You get her and your golden, well mostly.

But then again maybe not.  On the weekend I was mentoring some new beekeepers and letting them get some hands-on experience.  In one hive we saw fully capped queen cells.  So the next day they came back and we were set to do a split.

Then right in the middle of doing the split one of my other hives swarmed.  It was a pretty cool sight seeing thousands of bees in the air.

But my bees!  They were leaving.

Of course they settled 20' high up in the apple tree.  A couple quick phone calls later I had an extension ladder being delivered.

[Photo - Beek Team Canada approaches swarms much like hockey]

This is when I learned how unprepared I was for a swarm.  We scrounged a blanket and found a hockey stick.

New beekeeper Dan went up the ladder first and then me.  Huge clumps of bees fell to the blanket.  Our mistake was not then immediately tipping them into a hive.  By the time I got down the ladder most had flown back up the tree again.


After a while we realized it was time to give up.... The bees had won.

For now.
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