A Story of Summertime Bee Swarms
By Mary Murray
On a lovely spring morning, I went out as I do first thing each day to visit the chicken coop…time to let the girls out to stretch their wings. But on this day, I heard buzzing, loud buzzing. And looking past the coop, it was as if a black cloud was spiraling upward. Instantly I knew our beehive had swarmed.
My one hive … I only wanted one. That was enough to keep me busy, and after all, I was still learning about becoming a beekeeper. Our neighbor has five hives, and a friend has 30 … but one, that was just right for me. I knew a swarm wasn’t good, but I also knew if I acted quickly, I just might catch it. Why? I guess it was just instinct … I couldn’t let them leave. After all, they survived the Polar Vortex and minus 29-degree winter temperatures … I had to keep them!
I ran inside, put on my beekeeper’s suit, and was back out the door in a flash. I knew that swarms land anywhere from 1 to 20 feet high, and only about 50 to 100 feet from their original home. I looked quickly, and spotted them. Of course, they were more than 20 feet up on the outer edge of a branch. I knew there was no way I could get to them … safely. So, I watched as the scout bees soon lead the black cloud to their future home.
My neighbor had a nuc for sale, and I knew our original hive wouldn’t produce much, if any, honey this year. So I ordered, then painted a new hive, and together we installed her nuc of bees in the new hive. Beehive 2 was happily sitting next to my original hive. That’s OK, I told myself … if I can handle one hive, two will be no problem. I left looking forward to our future honey.
Ten days later, same morning routine, I heard it again … THAT sound! But this time I was ready. I had my nuc handy, a sheet, and my suit was on in record time. I whipped up some sugar water and put it in a spray bottle … I was out the door. My original hive had swarmed again and landed about 6 feet up in a nearby tree … carefully, I began to follow the rules of catching a swarm.
I spread the sheet out on the ground, sprayed the nuc frames with sugar water, and set the nuc under the swarm. Carefully I gave the branch holding the swarm two swift, but firm shakes and looked on. Happy (relieved?) that the majority of the bees landed in the nuc, I watched as the others climbed up the sheet … it was as if they were magically following the Pied Piper.
About 9:30 that night, I checked on the bees, and was thrilled to find the majority of them had gone inside the nuc. Yay! My first swarm catch was successful. And while most likely not picture-perfect to an experienced beekeeper, for me, it was an accomplishment.
I again ordered a new hive, painted it traditional white, and then moved the bees to Hive 3. Yep, three.
Earlier in the week, the kids and I were reading that some bees are unsure of which hive is home when there are several hives in a row. So they came up with the idea to paint a number on each landing board, along with a flower, each a different color, to help them along. And so here is Hive 2 …
That’s my limit … three hives. Really, it is. Truly. I mean it this time.
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