Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

High Flying Queens

What an adventure swarm catching is!  You just never know what you're going to get, when it's going to happen, and where it's going to land.  Sometimes a beekeeper will be fortunate enough to have a swarm land on a nearby shrub or on a low-lying tree branch.  Well, I wasn't so lucky...about 25 feet up in a tree (thankfully in our yard)!!  I couldn't just watch this swarm take off because: 

1. There's like $100.00 just hanging in that tree and
2. Who knows what ignorant folks will do to them when they leave the tree (e.g. spray with chemicals, spray with water...)!!
3. I have a queenless hive and this swarm could potentially solve this problem.
4. There are other bee folks in the area who could use a swarm. 

This video is really quite hilarious because everyone involved responded in a different way to thousands of bees falling from the sky.  The neighbor friend didn't quite know what he was signing himself up for, my husband, who rarely cusses, was in a state of shock, and I had to catch this box with about 5 pounds of bees and tape the lid shut without smashing any bees.  I laugh every time I watch this video!!

This swarm catch required more than 2 people so our good neighbor friend helped out!  We only have one bee suit and one bee hat net so that left one person with nothing.  Dave willingly volunteered because he doesn't care if he gets stung.  For those thinking the worst for this brave soul, Dave only received 6 stings.  Jon and I---Zero.

The video is self-explanatory, but here's what we did:  We attached a cardboard box with holes cut in the sides (with screen for ventilation) to the end of our fruit picker.  My husband held the fruit picker with the box directly beneath the swarm.  The neighbor used a tree trimer to shake the branches where the bees clung onto.  I stood below everything holding the ladder, and caught the box with the bees and duct-taped the lid shut.  It's really quite simple...

Click to enlarge this picture.  It's showing all of the bees in swarm mode.  They have just left the hive and are coming together as a new colony. 

This is one giant swarm 25 feet up in an oak tree.  It's split between two branches which makes capturing it very difficult.  At first I thought it was two separate swarms.  For beekeepers reading this, would swarms gather this close to each other?

After the branch was shook, the box was brought down to the ground where I duct-taped the lid shut.  At the bottom of the box, I cut a little flap so the remaining stragglers can still come in.  The bees at the entrance will fan their wings and waft a pheromone in the air letting the stragglers know where to go.  If the queen wasn't in the box, the bees would leave and cluster together again where the queen is.  Thankfully the bees remained in the box.

Later in the evening when the remaining scout bees were in the box, I opened the box and poured them into the queenless hive.  I don't have a video for this, but you can imagine that excitement...


Christopher Beeson July 1, 2011 at 7:44 PM  

Congrats on the swarm capture!

What great luck you were able to catch them, and use them to make your other hive queen-right!

Thank you, thank you for getting video of capturing them from the tree. The video did make me chuckle as I watched it (and I did watch it more than one time!).

I have seen people use water barrels (the kind used in office buildings) with the bottom cut off and inverted on to of long poles, but your box method worked just as good!

Do let us know if the queen from the swarm takes over and makes the colony queen right again!

Show Me The Honey Blog

Phoebe July 5, 2011 at 12:19 PM  

Good job getting that swarm!
I am curious to see what happens in that hive now.
I have been having odd queen happenings in my hive#1 too.
I think the weather here is to blame. Rain rain rain. How can a queen get outside to mate?

Holly July 5, 2011 at 7:25 PM  

It seems that many beekeepers are having trouble with their queens this year. I subscribe to a bee list serve and I've see numerous posts this year about failing queens and queenless hives. Last year I didn't hear one word about queen problems. Is it just a fluke, or could something else be going on?

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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