Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chasing the swarm

Beekeeping

I knew the top bar hive was doing well.  In fact it was doing so well that the bees were running out of room!  They were literally spilling out of the hive...this pic was taken early last week...
A responsible beekeeper would have taken the time to split the hive.  See...the bees were making a new queen in a swarm cell.  The upside down cup-looking cells are queen cells in the pic below.  Once the queen emerges from the cell, she leaves the hive and takes about half of the bees with her in a swarm.  It only takes 16 days for a queen to go from egg to larvae and then into queen!
I have seen a swarm before but I have never actually seen the "swarming" of the bees out of the hive.  Last Thursday afternoon, I just happened to actually see the swarming (but I didn't actually know what was going on) and I filmed it!
It was something out of a sci-fi movie.  There were bees everywhere and they were buzzing so LOUDLY!  The bees finally landed in the top of an apple tree.  At this point, they send out little scouting bees to find a new home.  When they find a good place to start a new home, the scouting bee come back and lead the swarm away to their new home.
Once I knew where the swarm had landed, I called my friend, Alison, because she has a special 5 gallon bucket on the end of a pole that you can use to capture a swarm.  Here is a pic of a similar swarm catcher...
Unfortunately, even with bucket on a pole, I could not reach the swarm.  It was in the very top of the apple tree.  So, Henry got a ladder and I climbed to the top of a 10 foot ladder and hoisted the bucket-on-a-pole up into the air.  We did not bother to put on any bee suits.  I told Henry not to worry because bees in a swarm are friendly because they do not have any hive to defend.  Then, I jammed the bucket up into the swarm and the bees went crazy!  They started flying everywhere!  I got stung on the neck and Henry got stung on his head.  Abort, abort, abort!

So, I started to think of what else I could do to capture the swarm.  First thing I did was to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get some lemongrass essential oil.  Did you know that bees are attracted to the scent of lemongrass?  It's true.  I got back home and set up a swarm trap that I made out of an old nuc box.  I put a bunch of lemongrass in the trap.  Maybe, if I got lucky, the swarm would go into the trap...
I also put some of the lemongrass in my Langstroth hive.  I had gotten bees for the Langstroth hive in May but they did not make it ($160 down the drain!).  I figured that if I caught the swarm, I could put it in the Langstroth hive.  We put on some bee suits and I tried two more times to get the bees that evening.  I caught a few hundred bees each time and dumped them into the Langstroth but I could not get the entire swarm.  It's very difficult to balance a 5 gallon bucket on the end of a 10 foot pole on top while standing on top of a 10 foot ladder!

The next morning, we tried one more time to catch the swarm but we were still unsuccessful.  That afternoon, the swarm was gone...bummer...

I looked into the top bar hive and I saw more queen cells that were early in their development.  I took a couple of these bars out of the top bar hive and put them into the Langstroth.  My hope is that the few bees that I got off the swarm would take care of the developing queen and she would hatch and they would keep her as their leader.  This is really unconventional so I would not suggest anyone follow this advice.  The components of a top bar hive and a Langstroth hive are not interchangeable.  The top bars are the ones with the numbers on them in this pic...
I am not upset that the bees swarmed and went away.  That is part of beekeeping.  It is actually a win that the bees were doing so well that they had to swarm.  I just wish I could have caught that swarm and put it in the Langstroth hive.

In a perfect world, I would have had an empty top bar hive to split the hive into.  I have been thinking about getting another hive of each.  The reason I have the Langstroth hive in the first place is because my top bar hive swarmed a couple of years ago and I was able to catch that swarm.  Here is a blog post that I did when we caught that swarm, just click HERE.  After we caught the swarm, I ran to the local farm store and bought the Langstroth hive to put the swarm in to it.  Top bar hives are not as common as the Langstroth hives so you you can't just go to the farm store and buy one.  Also, hives are not cheap so that is why I have not gotten around to getting more.  The beekeeping started as a 4-H project for Joshua and I have kind of taken it over and have been on the fence about how much I want to do with it.  I really enjoy it but don't feel like I have the time...

The swarming happened over a week ago (not this past Thursday and Friday but the week before).  I mention this because I checked on the Langstroth hive yesterday and the queen bee cells were all capped.  This means that the new queen may be emerging soon!  I also got stung again...pro-tip...lavender essential oil is really good at taking the pain of the sting out right away!

I will make sure to give a hive update in September when I do the summer review...to be continued...
~Denise


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