Bees have a natural tendency to swarm, or split from their hive and go to a new home, and it drives a good beekeeper goofy at times. Sometimes they swarm when things are not right, like not enough perceived room in the hive, or they swarm for no known good reason. Swarms are a easy way to start a new hive if you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, with the correct supplies. Swarms are generally mild in nature, but if they have been searching for a new location for sometime they can be hungry and less tolerable. Most are very gentle.
Swarms are an amazing site and scary for a non-bee person. Most people don’t know what to do when they find a swarm, I once had someone tell me to kill them by placing them in a burning garbage can! The proper thing to do is contact a local beekeeper if you know one, or contact your local police or fire department and they will have a list of contacts.
They say that new hives normally will not swarm the first year, but I’ve learned that is not entirely true. (the hard way) My strong hive swarmed and I did catch the swarm, and now I have three hives. When a swarm leaves they often leave the old hive in great condition (capped honey, capped brood, queen cells, ect.), it will most likely be strong enough to make it through the winter. But it would have been much stronger if they hadn’t swarmed in the first place. I would have preferred 1 weak hive and 1 strong hive rather than 3 weaker ones. The beekeepers have their plans and the bees have theirs….., such is the life of the beekeeper.
This is a early spring swarm that Jerry Busby found in his yard this spring, looks like they are taking to a nuc box.
Now that is a swarm! Look what noticed two empty hives (waiting for packages to show up) at Gregg’s and showed up a couple days after the packages were installed. (to their dismay) I was excited as a kid with a new toy!
Since we were dealing with unknown bees we decided to play it safe and wear protection. They ended up being very docile and we recovered them easily.
A empty hive was set on a sheet and the bee’s were dumped out of the bucket and onto the sheet. They instantly marched directly into the hive. (They must of heard about Howard!) We watched for the queen but they ran into the hive 3 to 4 deep and we didn’t notice her entry. We had a good idea that she did enter because of the way workers climbed above the entrance to fan her scent towards the others. There were so many bees that it took some time for them to find room in this small hive. The bees were picked up later that night and will be quarantined for a time before placing them near other hives incase of disease. Better safe than sorry.
This swarm showed up at a new car dealership during a grand opening! They decided to attached themselves to a picnic table used by employees for lunch and breaks. The hive was place on the ground, with sheet underneath it, and the bees were brushed to the sheet.
This was a pretty good size swarm and it was amazing that we were in and out in about 30 minutes. We had many employees out watching, we were the talk of the day. Many bees were found dead on the ground when we got there, they showed up the same time all the workers pulled in. If I’m not mistaken, a new queen needed to be introduced to this hive, and they are doing very well.
This late July swarm is smaller. We decided to cut the limb off and place it on the sheet in front of the hive.
First I tried to get the pruning shears into place, but I bumped the swarm by accident trying to get the shears around another limb and had about 50 bees fall on my arm with 3 ending up stinging me. I hadn’t been stung yet and I was proud of that fact, but that was my fault. So then I tried to carefully cut through the branch without dislodging any bees while Howard held each end of the limb, I cut very carefully, and when the shears cut through the branch fell suddenly and several hundred fell on me and the ground. One more bee made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the queen safe but we got all of them in the hive in about 20 minutes. So much for my attempt of not getting stung in my first year! Protective gear would have been a smarter plan with this situation.
This is a good picture of bees fanning the scent of the queen toward the bees not at the hive. The sheet makes for easy access to the hive for the bees. The ones on the ground under the tree climbed up some grass and flew over to the hive.