Head down and concentrating on the goings on in one of my hives, I suddenly became aware of a lot of noise and looked up to find I was standing in the midst of a swarm of bees.
I watched as they gradually began to settle on a nearby tree, about nine foot from the ground. I have been really keen to have a go at housing a swarm as it isn’t something you can practice unless you happen to find one. And you don’t see them that often.
There was nothing I could do at the time as I had to get to work, but as I was returning to the apiary later in the day with G, I thought I would try and deal with it then, under supervision and instruction.
I returned with a stepladder, cardboard box, sheet, secateurs, and wooden prop. Under guidance, I started by cutting away the smaller branches on which it had settled. I then gently pushed the cardboard box under the bottom of the swarm, and gave the branch a good thump and they all fell into the box. I passed this to G who quickly turned it upside down on the sheet. We left if or a few minutes to settle and then propped open one corner so that all the bees that hadn’t gone into the box could join the other bees. Fortunately the queen was in the box – otherwise they would have all returned to join her back on the branch. By evening time they were all settled inside the cardboard box and ready to be moved to a permanent spot.
The following day I put my ‘swarm box’ back together just in case I should need it again at some time. I didn’t have to wait long because later that morning I got a call to say there was a swarm in Dorset Road and would I go and collect it. ON MY OWN!!
In my excitement I forgot to photograph the swarm before I housed it, but was in an apple tree about five foot from the ground. It was clustered around the main trunk of the tree and that was not going to move however hard I thumped it.
I decided the only way to deal with this was to brush them into the box with my hands. It was a little tricky as it was all around the trunk and would not move in one go. But I worked very quickly and seemed to get a good number of bees into the box which I immediately put on to the sheet. There were still a lot of bees on the tree (picture) and although there were a few crawling into the box I wasn’t convinced I had the queen.
After a while all the remaining bees left the tree and the garden was absolutely full of flying bees – just like the original swarm. Although a tad concerned that they were all off again, I tried to look confident so that the residents would think I knew what I was doing. Quite soon it all started to quieten down and they gathered on the box and slowly made their way in. I smoked tree to remove any traces of pheromone that might cause them to go back.
I returned in the evening to collect them – and took them back to the apiary. I had a queen less colony and G suggested that that this could be the solution.
I united them using the newspaper method. I opened the brood box, added a sheet of newspaper, then the queen excluder, then an empty brood box. I threw all the bees into this box and covered them with another sheet of newspaper, a queen excluder and all the supers.
The next day I went back and they had all mingled together, so I removed the brood box and one queen excluder. I then went on holiday for a week. I have left them well alone and after another week I will check to see that they have settled down successfully.
My swarm collection box is ready for action once again…
Lessons to self: The only way to improve is to have a go.