Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our First Honey Bee Swarm

On Thursday, April 23, Robin and I were working in our yard around noon, Robin with her hay bale garden and I was working with my chickens. We noticed there was more bee activity outside the hive than bees flying to and from gathering pollen.  I took the video below.  Later the sky was filled with thousands of bees, see the picture above.

When a colony swarms, it divides to make two due to overpopulation and occurs normally in April and May.  The swarming bees engorge themselves with honey before leaving.  A queen bee from the hive landed on a nearby tree branch about ten feet above the ground.  The worker bees finally started to surround the queen who releases mandibular pheromone that draws them to her.

After about thirty minutes the bees were in a well formed cluster about the size of a football. We contacted Jimmy Odom, Robin's bee mentor to see if he could help us with the swarm. We knew it was in a location where it could be captured before it headed out to a new location.  Bees normally remain in this cluster for between 24 and 48 hours before moving to a new home in a tree or someone's house so we had to move quickly.
Jimmy arrived late morning on Friday, April 24 to remove the swarm to give to his ten year old grandson that wanted his first bee hive.   Jimmy used a swarm bucket to move the bees to an empty hive he brought with him.  He put the bucket around the swarm and hit the top on the branch around the swarm a couple time then quickly closed the bucket with the attached lid.  He poured the bees on the top of an open bee hive.  The bees started to move into the new hive but some returned to the branch.  Since the bees are not defending their colony, they are very docile so Jimmy did not need to wear a protective suit.
After the bees settled down a little into the new hive, Jimmy put on the inner cover, a cover with an opening in the center, over the bees .  Many of the disturbed bees returned to the branch during the next few minutes.  Swarm buckets were used a couple more times to guide the remaining bees to the hive.  The branch was removed to discourage any bees to return to the location since it has the strong odor of the mandibular pheromone. The hive was left until the next day before the bee were delivered to their new home.
Jimmy guided Robin as she checked out the bees that were left. She found that a good number were left so she added a shallow honey super with a queen excluder in hopes that we will get our first honey from the hive.    

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved the blog post, Daddy! So interesting! I didn't think the bees would actually be so visible when they swarmed on that branch. Keep posting :) Love ya! - Kati