Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First Honey Bee Swarm of the Year!

As usual, it's been months since I wrote but I'll spare you the typical lame excuses. It was an incredibly mild winter in Philly and the bees barely stopped working all winter. They have built up quickly and some of my hives are booming already, looking like they usually do in summer. I went into the winter with 8 hives and I lost 2, both of which were weak and small at the end of last fall. I should have combined those two into one hive, which would have given them a better chance to survive the winter.

I am guessing it will be a busy year for swarming as hives build up quickly and take beekeepers by surprise (hopefully not my hives, but I wouldn't be shocked!). I had my first swarm call last week and I successfully captured and re-homed the bees. The bees swarmed from a colony living in the walls of a house in Conshohocken. I am scheduled to remove the colony from the house in early June. The swarm settled in the neighbor's yard on a peach tree. The day they swarmed was a gorgeous sunny day, but I didn't get there until the next day, which was cold and rainy. I think there is a good chance these girls would not have made it if I didn't grab them because the next two days were nasty.

The swarm was clustered on a two fairly thick branches, about 7 feet up in the tree, so I wouldn't be able to cut these branches off. I set up a ladder so I could get closer to the swarm. I would have to quickly shake/jar the branches to get the swarm to fall off.

When I shook the tree, about half of the bees went into the box (not shown in picture), a quarter of the bees ended up on the lawn and another quarter were still in the tree. At first I wasn't sure if the queen ended up in the box, but within 5 minutes or so, I saw bees fanning and spreading Nasonov pheromone at the entrance, which is a sure sign that the queen was in da' house. I moved the box to the ground to get the bees from the lawn. If you look at this crappy video, you can see a bunch of bees flying into the hole and also some bees marching on the grass towards the entrance as they pick up the scent of the Nasonov pheromone and reunite themselves with the colony.


Once most of the bees from the ground were in the hive, I moved the box back up to the ladder to get the bees that had reclustered on the tree. As a side note, I used the box from the Bushkill bee vac setup, which I find awesome for catching swarms.

I strapped the box on the ladder to secure it and I left it there for a few hours to give the bees a chance to rejoin their sisters and queen mama inside of the box. When I returned later in the afternoon, 99% of the bees had moved into the box, with just a small handful of stragglers holding out. I left them there, hoping that they would rejoin their parent colony back in the walls of the house. It was a successful and relatively easy swarm capture. I gave the homeowners, Danny and Abey, a small jar of honey and thanked them for helping me (and the bees!). I kept the bees in the box in my basement for two days until I had clearance to set them up at my newest apiary (story to come soon)...


  1. Sweet! Hoping to get a swarm or two here soon, as I have friends who need bees. Mine are doing just fine.