The last post ended on a bit of a dejected note where we felt like pretty lame beekeepers. And, right on schedule the bees, adding insult to anticipated injury, swarmed again on Monday 5 May 2014. A primary cast of a good 20,000-30,000 bees.
But miracle of miracles, instead of going to their usual high place, they headed for the opposite side of the drive and at an easily reachable height. We both had the same thought: we can finally use the nuc Tony built for us a couple of Christmases ago.
And follow them we did this time, ready with our trusty nuc, a step ladder, and a set of loppers. We figured we would cut out a step and just drop them right into the nuc. This happened without any problems. The one thing you forget though is how heavy that clump of bees is, and that they don’t necessarily like to be plopped down.
We got all the rest of the bigger clumps off the tree, just leaving a tiny one. As we were confident we had got the queen, we figured this clump would diminish as bees left to join the others in the nuc. We also put the frames in the nuc, just to keep them busy.
As you can see at the front of the hive, they are already starting to pile in. We just left them on the ground. I know they should have been in an elevated position, making their way up a staircase of white sheet. But, we didn’t want to disturb them any more at this point. Plus, it was rather hypnotic to watch. Our neighbors must have thought we were nuts, sitting on the gravel in our driveway in bee suits watching a box of writhing mass of insect.
We put a combination crown board/feeder on top to encourage them down into the box. They had mostly been clinging to the sides and around the top edge.
One thing we had to do, and its a recommended technique, is to brush the bees away from the entrance. They tend to jam up so no one gets in, so a quick flick with the brush breaks the log jam, at least for a bit. You have to do it a number of times, so you might as well set a while and enjoy the procession.
Now, beginner beekeepers should stop reading about now. Because this location in our garden is well over three feet and well under 3 miles from where they originally swarmed. But we had a problem in that if we left them anywhere near where they had swarmed, all manner of person coming onto our driveway would encounter them. Now, it’s not as if I am the most welcoming person to strangers, but I at least wanted my mail delivered. So we waited until evening when all the flying bees should be inside, put their little cover over the entrance and brought them down to the bottom of the garden where the main hive is. We then took the cover off. It did take a couple of days of a small crowd of bees gathering at the back gate leading to the driveway (the last location before they had been moved) before they figured it out. UPDATE: I have since learned that this rule does not apply to swarms-the British Beekeeping association Facebook discussion helped. As long as you have the queen, the rest should be fine. Doesn’t explain why there was a group that went back to the original spot for a few days running…
And now they have settled in and are busier than the main hive adjacent to them. The difference in activity is noticeable. Depending on how quick they are able to pack out the nuc, we may combine the two hives if the main hive does not thrive. Right now, we are hoping that it is a case pour encourager les autres.
Did the title of this post make you think swarming season was over? Well, stay tuned until next time….