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Beekeeping, Honey Bees, Queen Bees, Queens, Swarms

Of Swarms and Inspections 2014: Where It Ends (we hope) (Part 3)

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.


I like this photo. Even though it is unfocused, it feels as if you are flying with the bees into the tree.

I like this photo. Even though it is unfocused, it feels as if you are flying with the bees into the tree.

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.

The main ,branch full of bees, and the queen we hope.

The main ,branch full of bees, and the queen we hope.




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.


Home, for now

Home, for now


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….


10 thoughts on “Of Swarms and Inspections 2014: Where It Ends (we hope) (Part 3)

  1. Don’t be dejected. We’ve already collected five swarms. Top shop in London had one on the door today. The weather has created a phenomenon. Not sure that many bee keepers aren’t having problems.

    Posted by lizard100 | May 16, 2014, 7:50 pm
  2. Your bees swarmed onto the same kind of tree as mine did! I’m so glad you recovered them without any real calamity–great post!

    Posted by quillentries | May 16, 2014, 9:46 pm
  3. I live in Australia and winter is just around the corner. The nights have gotten as cold as 3 C (38 F) and the bees should be settling down for a slack period of waiting for spring. Well, surprise, surprise – yesterday we had a swarm. We caught it, gave it some honey frames and an empty frame for the queen to lay and put the little colony in a nuc in the apiary – it’s hard to know if it will survive. We had another swarm about 6 weeks ago that didn’t survive. (Did the queen die?? We don’t know but the bees eventually vanished, probably begged their way back into another hive, and the queen was gone.) I’ve no idea why our bees are swarming so late in the year (they were all requeened in autumn) but I hope yours stop this nonsense and just go about making you some nice honey.

    Posted by Laura Rittenhouse | May 16, 2014, 11:55 pm
    • Hey you! Great to hear from you. That is weird behavior but not unheard of. Could it be a case not of swarming but absconding? Rusty at the HoneyBee Suite has some interesting things to say on this: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/absconding-swarms-leave-an-empty-hive/ It doesn’t help that there is no one good explanation.

      Hope you are doing well on the farm. Have you stopped all your writing entirely?

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | May 17, 2014, 8:40 am
      • I think it was a swarm as the mother hive is still in situ (whichever one that was) and it looks like the new swarm is doing okay since today a lot of bees were bringing in pollen. Mamma bee must be busy.

        I had stopped writing entirely but I’m back at it as of today. Your comment here was the straw that broke the camels back. I’ve had several people ask where I vanished to and I am ready to sit at the keyboard again so feel free to have a gander at my blog whenever the urge strikes. I’ll be posting about my bees in the coming days which might interest you more than my chicken dramas.

        Posted by Laura Rittenhouse | May 21, 2014, 3:05 am
      • I am always up for a good chicken drama, me. And the bees are non-stop drama as I well know. Glad to be the camel, I think, and welcome back to blogland!

        Posted by mylatinnotebook | May 21, 2014, 8:16 am

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