Friday, August 10, 2012

1st Swarm Experience (and I got to help, too!)

I got a call at work about a swarm of bees on a crane.  They needed to use the crane, but they didn't want to kill the bees.

I had never actually dealt with or even seen a swarm in person.  Luckily, there is an experienced beekeeper that works there, too.  So we gathered up what protective type equipment we could scrounge, a cardboard box with a lid and headed out there.

Time was not on our side, so we had to act quickly.  It wasn't a "textbook" capture, but he did the best he could with the bee's welfare in mind.

We taped the lid onto the box with duct tape (duct tape will fix anything!) and poked a lot of air holes in the box.  We kept the box in a cool place until quitting time.

When I got home from work, the bees were still ok.  I had a general idea of what I wanted to do.  It seemed to me that I should treat this box of bees like a package of bees.  So I cut a "window" in the end of the box and sprayed them with sugar water and let them sit for 15 minutes:

While they were "resting", I sprayed the frames with sugar water to hopefully make them more appealing to the bees.  I have an 8-frame deep and had three frames out initially to make room for the bees:

I put the remaining frames in, put on the inner cover, put an entrance feeder on top of the inner cover, and put the telescoping top on the top:

I gave them about an hour and checked them. There were only four or five bees at the entrance. I put in the entrance reducer and put a block of wood over the hole. I was advised that it would be best to put the hive in the shade for a day or two while they got settled, so I did. I blocked the entrance (the hive has a screened bottom board) so they wouldn't be oriented to this location. In a day or two I'll move it to where I want it and unblock the entrance, so they can orient on the hive then.

General observations: It was my understanding from what I've read and heard that swarms are docile.  Also, I thought sugar water calmed them down. It may be true. However, in this instance, neither were true. It was as though I had took a big stick to a hornet's nest. These bees were MAD and were really coming after us the whole time (except for right at the end). Luckily I didn't get stung, but my dad got one sting through a glove.

It is true, however, that if you put the container with the bees that don't shake out next to the entrance, that they will all march right into the hive. I thought that was amazing.

Overall, I think it went ok for someone that never had done it before. They may abscond the day I open the hive. But they may stay. We'll see. But I think it was a good day and I've learned a lot. I have some days off now, so I can give all the bees plenty of attention and TLC.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

UPDATE:  It rained Friday so the bees had a cool day to adjust to their new house.  Saturday was a beautiful day - low humidity and lots of sunshine.  We took the hive out to the yard and opened the entrance.  The bees came out, oriented, and flew off looking for food and water.  I peeked into the top and the entrance feeder had not tipped over during the move (that's good!), and there were lots of bees on top of the inner cover.  So, at this point, I think they're doing ok.  I plan on feeding them  a lot, and hopefully before winter there will be two deeps worth of stores to get them through until spring.  Here's some pictures of the hive out in the yard:

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