Swarm town

Today was a perfect day for swarming.

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They hang off the edge, they make a loud humming buzz that can be mistaken for a weed whacker, they crawl up the front of the box, and then they swirl through the air before landing at their first stop.

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As discussed in our last post, we prepared to have them land in a box that is perched on our tree. They chose a different location in our neighbors’ yards, in between two fences.

IMG_1916We “rescued” them by having one of us pound the fence on the wooden side, while the other swept the bees into a box on the wired side.

So are swarms really bad? They aren’t ideal for beekeepers, but they are part of the bees’ natural order. This will slow down the honey flow, which means less honey for us.

BUT! Since we were able to capture them, it’s like we got free bees! We started the year with 1 hive that survived the winter. We purchased 1 more.  Now, because of 2 swarms and one hive split, we have 4 1/2 hives.

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Interesting fact: Our Carniolan bees, the type that are known for swarming, are showing no signs of taking off soon.

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For the love of lemongrass

This is our first year being proactive with catching swarms. Our hive that swarmed a few days ago is prepping to swarm again. To increase the chance that they conveniently land in the same tree as the last swarm, we sprayed the lower branches with a mixture of water and lemongrass essential oil. Lemongrass oil mimics the pheromone that the scout bees send out when they are looking for a new place to live, so they are naturally attracted to it.

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Since we now both smell like lemongrass, the bees are attracted to us. We’ll be staying out of the yard for a couple hours.

Wish us luck!

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To catch a swarm

The beginning of May is also the beginning of swarm season. Hilariously, we posted a note to one of our neighborhood social websites early in the morning informing that if anyone sees a bee swarm, to please contact us, and we’ll remove it for free. A few hours later, this was found in our own tree.

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Swarms are inevitable, and we’ve been fortunate enough to witness at least one per year. It’s fortunate because it is one of the most mesmerizing things to see. We knew a swarm would happen soon, as we noticed that one of our hives was in the process of creating 2 new queens. We decided to try splitting the hive and creating a new one. This could create a couple different scenarios. Ideally, with a lot of luck, the original hive would decide not to swarm.  That would result in having the original hive with a new colony being created. Sadly, the queen made up her mind, and decided they have to take off anyway.

When bees swarm, their first stop is not far from the original hive. Typically, they stay in one large clump for up to 48 hours. All swarms that we have witnessed from our hives have landed about 40 feet high up in a neighbor’s tree, completely unreachable, and then they leave for their new “permanent” home within 5 hours.

You can see where our hives are located. The swarm landed right where this beekeeper is pointing:

fullsizeoutput_a7dAs a first time swarm catcher, he asked for some advice, but ultimately figured it out on his own. The bees were attached to a branch, so the branch had to be cut off. The girls were placed into a cardboard nuc box, and then we began the fun process of installing them into a deep super.fullsizeoutput_a7bWe provided them with some food, a few empty frames, and hoped for the best.

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Interesting fact: Swarming bees are harmless. Be nice.