A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

My First Swarm - 06/06/2012

Just over a week ago I got a text message from Dad who was up at his allotment doing allotment things. I get fairly regular texts from him when he is up there, especially when it is good weather. The normal text that I receive from him reads either "Uggins a bees out" or "Not many bees art today", which to a Yorkshireman makes perfect sense but to others may not be as easy to comprehend; The translations are "Lots of bees are flying in and out of the hive today" or "There aren't that many bees flying today". The day I'm making reference to today was a quite different message, it read "Emergemcy aig swarm of bees in pear tree" which should read "Emergency a big swarm of bees in pear tree" but he is also not the best at texting but I'll let him off for that. When I'd received the text I got excited but also a bit worried as I didn't know how long it had been there or how long it would stay there. I also wanted to know if it had come from my hives.

I wasn't available to go straight there so as soon as I was I rushed up there with my nuc hive that I built earlier in the year with the aim of trying to catch it. Upon arrival I had a walk over to see how big the swarm was. Now even though I've never seen a swarm before I believed this to be one of fair size, below is a video of it. I apologise for the heavy breathing in the video, I had a bit of a cold at the time and sounded a bit like Darth Vader!



The next thing I did was put the nuc hive under the swarm. I took another video at this stage but all it shows is the hive under the swarm. It's here if you want to see it but it really doesn't show anything different.
After I had my equipment in place I started trying to get the Bees to go in the nuc hive. One way I've seen of doing this on youtube is to literally grab handfuls of Bees and place them in the hive. I tried this and it wasn't really working in doing anything other than annoying them, so much so that I received my second ever sting from my Bees and it was right on my backside! No, this method wasn't working. I decided that it was time to bring out the smoke. I have been told a few times that smoke is not needed for collecting a swarm but I thought it would help me. The usual method is to cut off the branch that the swarm is on and then give it a sharp shake to dislodge the Bees into your hive or transport box; this wasn't an option as they were wrapped around the tree trunk. Anyway, I lit my smoker and started blowing smoke above the swarm and at the opposite side to the hive, hoping that this would encourage them to go down and across into the hive. I thought this was working as a lot of Bees were making their way into the hive as seen in the next video.


Hooray I thought, I've caught them! So I packed up and left them to make their own way into the hive. When I got home I had a feeling of a job well done and was thinking "that wasn't too hard was it". The next day I found out how wrong I'd been! When I arrived back at the allotment I found the Bees had regrouped on the tree exactly as they were to begin with! I was a bit dismayed but I had to do something about it as they had started making comb on the tree and would have eventually perished if they stayed there, not to mention making it hard for my Dad to work in that area of the allotment. I decided to have another go at the smoke them into the hive method but this time I was a little more forceful, to the point where I think I was annoying them a bit and I did get another sting, this time on my hand. 

After a while I'd got to a similar point to my last video with the Bees going into the hive when I spotted something familiar; a large Bee with a white spot on her back! After seeing this I knew where the swarm had come from as she is the only one of my hives with a marked Queen! I had a small attempt to catch her on the end of my hive tool but she was having none of it so I carried on smoking above the hive to get them to go in. After a while I think I saw her majesty walking into the hive but couldn't be sure as now there were hundreds of Bees climbing all over one another to get into the hive. The next, and last, video shows this.


After nearly all the Bees had made their way into the hive I decided to leave and come back the next day to make sure they had settled in ok. I packed up all my gear and gently moved the hive into the apiary next to my other 2 hives then left.

It turned out the weather was really lousy for the next few days so it was longer than I wanted before returning to the hive and this time I was again anxious for the swarm. When I did get to return it didn't look good to begin with; there were a few dead Bees on the entrance but when I opened the hive up I could see it was full of alive Bees but they were very lethargic. I believe this is because they were starving (the next time I build a nuc hive I will make it bigger so I can fit some way of feeding them such as a frame feeder). Knowing that there wasn't enough room in the hive for a frame feeder I decided that the best solution would be to fill a freezer bag with sugar syrup and place it in the space above the frames with a slit at the top so the Bees could feed from it. When I had done this, and spilt a load over the tops of the frames, I could see a marked increase in the liveliness of them. I will continue to feed them this way until I can put them into a full sized hive.  

Feeding Starving Bees
Bees feeding

Feeding Starving Bees
More Bees feeding!