Catching a Swarm

Day 700: We checked on our hives at their new home in the country today and we love it. We even captured a swarm and had a great time.

I normally avoid posting photos of myself, but my face is obscured in this one and I sort of look like a biker with a handlebar moustache, a fat head and no neck. That doesn’t look anything like me. Anyway, that’s about half the swarm I’m holding. It was big. It was thick. And the bees were so calm, we were able to cut the branch off the tree, not exactly in a delicate manner, and they didn’t budge from their cluster. It was a text book swarm cluster.

It was difficult to get a good shot of the bees because we only had our small snapshot camera and couldn’t see what we were doing, but here’s a close up of the cluster, slightly out of focus:

There’s a queen deep in the centre of the ball somewhere.

We cut off the branches the bees were clinging to (I had to use a pocket knife to whittle off the branches), and placed them inside a hive box with three frames of empty drawn comb and some honey. We put the top on and left them alone for about 20 minutes. Then we moved them to a new hive that included a feeder and reduced the entrance. The last we saw of them, the bees were covering four or five frames in the new hive and they were scenting as if to say, “The queen is inside and the place looks great. Let’s set up camp and stay for a while.” I’ll check on them tomorrow to make sure that’s what they were thinking.

P.S.: See Hiving a Swarm for more photos.

UPDATE (Oct. 25/12): It was our best day of beekeeping and pretty much the only good day we had. The rest of the season was quick and dirty beekeeping, more like bee-visiting than beekeeping, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as able to see the bees every day.

8 thoughts on “Catching a Swarm

  1. I caught a swarm last week and wow its pretty cool. They will amaze you at how fast they will build comb. put lots of empty frames with foundation in as they will build like mad.

  2. Yeah, they have three fully drawn frames with some honey on the edges that we had planned to use for a swarm trap (not anymore). We gave them about 5 litres of syrup in a frame feeder, too, and added a second brood box with some partially drawn comb in the middle. Hopefully all the empty space in the second brood box won’t discourage them. I’ve heard that it can, but also I’ve heard from many beekeepers that a swarmed hived will build up so fast that they can fill in a deep within days. And we won’t be able to check on them for another week, so we figured we’ll add the extra box just in case they really go town on it.

  3. I say it was our best beekeeping day so far because we didn’t have to concern ourselves with nosey, suspicious neighbours. Whenever we inspected our hives or did any kind of beekeeping, we always made sure that our immediate next door neighbours weren’t in their back yard, and if they did come out, we’d quickly finish up whatever we were doing. We enjoyed the bees, but it was never a fully relaxed environment.

    To have bees in a residential urban environment, it’s probably best to be on friendly terms with everyone in the neighbourhood. That’s just not possible or desirable where I live.

    I’d also like to say that our neighbourhood isn’t full of bee-hating jerks. The neighbours on the left side of our house are great, a totally laid back older couple. The neighbours on our right are a mixed bag. A nice old lady lives in the house, and she was always agreeable to having the honey bees close by. But some other people who live in the house are the type who will call the fire department complaining about killer bees before they’ll bother trying to talk to us about their concerns in a rational manner. Constantly feeling that kind of vibe took some of the fun out of beekeeping.

    We love the new location.

  4. There is just something magical about swarms. That’s a corny way of putting it, but it’s the most fun I’ve had with bees so far. I’m glad you’re enjoying the bees in the country. Glad you had a nice place to bring them.

  5. Phil, you’ll have honey out of that colony this year. Feed them for another week or two then cut them off. You’ll be amazed how fast a swarm recovers and builds up that comb.

  6. Looks like an awesome capture! I’ve gotten a few calls recently about swarms in South-Western Ontario, but I haven’t been able to go get one yet as I don’t have any extra hive equipment at the moment.

    All the best for this swarm and hopefully it turns into a nice healthy colony.

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