Last post, I mentioned that once bees decide they will swarm, there is no turning back. Last Sunday, several hundred bees found their way into the garage, where the extra beekeeping equipment is kept. Smelling like honey and cozy like home, the bees are attracted to the empty frames in supers and brood boxes. At first, it seemed as if they had swarmed into the garage, above the equipment. After an hour or so of studying the situation and taking apart the garage, we deduced that they hadn’t moved in, but rather just liked the extra food. By twilight, they returned home just to return early the next morning. This time, we had wised up and left the garaged closed, so they just banged around the door and the corner for some time before giving up and going back to the hive. Fast forward to Friday; I arrived home from work and Carmen, (the Swarm Spotter), casually mentioned to me that perhaps the bees had swarmed. She’d seen lots of bee activity, and pointed out where she had seen them gather. To my amazement, they had swarmed but only about 30 feet from their hive. The mass was about the size of two footballs end to end and roughly the same thickness. They had settled around a lower branch on the crab apple tree, with several smaller branches intersecting the swarm. I did what any girl would do. I jumped around, exclaimed an oath or two, and then called in for reinforcements. Shortly, the Bee Brigade arrived and we crafted a plan.
Generally, swarms are largely docile, having gorged themselves on honey from the hive just prior to the big move (think post-Thanksgiving dinner stupor). They surround the queen to protect her, and communicate their plans through scent. John, the builder of bee hive body parts, already had a swarm hive ready on his backyard, hoping to attract a swarming hive. His preparedness saved the day quite nicely, as we were able to clip the tree branch and shake the bees in to a hive body that was ready and waiting. Here’s a short video that our Swarm Spotter put together, better than any description. She pulled double duty as Fly Boy was out doing his real job, and could not be called upon to act as photographer.