Collecting a Swarm - we know what we are doing... September 29 2012, 0 Comments

TC got a call from a work colleague this afternoon - 'mate, you know something about bees, right? My friend has a hive in a tree, what should he do?' 'Why, call the crazy-bee-lady, of course!'

We raced out to John Guilfoyle Beekeeping Supplies on the chance we may be going to get our first swarm...and told not to fall off the ladder when we do it! Heading off with a new super, bottom board and lid, we braved peak-hour traffic toward the suburb we may be required to be! While TC drove, I googled 'tips to collecting bee swarms'! Ten minutes later, I get a call from Mr L who says that he has a bee swarm in the backyard and he is very relieved when we tell him we are happy to come and get it straight away.

Upon arriving and shaking hands with Mr L, we admire the beautifully shaped swarm, measuring about 30cm long and 20cm across. They had hung up in the outer branches of a small tree in the yard.  Deciding to borrow a ladder, I set about laying out my quilt cover (unfortunately my nice one, but the only light colored one we have! Ahhhh, the sacrifices we make!) and TC set the ladder up and started pruning the branches back. Contrary to all the information I had read, these bees were not docile and dopey... they were guarding the swarm rather fiercely, and were not impressed that we were disturbing them.

After a quick debate about how we would proceed, we were ready to give it a go. I held the plastic box up under the swarm, and TC did the big, sharp shake. Presto! A bucketful of bees in less than a second. Watching our feet, and advising (yelling ;-) at Mr L , T1 and T2 to get inside - there were LOTS of angry bees buzzing around - we flip the box upside-down, propping up the front to let the workers make their way in. Luckily we must have dropped the queen in the box with the initial shake, as the workers start making there way into the box. TIP: use a dark box, to encourage them in (most like a hollow or hive), not a transparent one (yes, we had to use a blanket over the box to darken it!!)

After an hour of waiting for them to hang up in the box, and an unfortunate sting under TC's eye, we bundle up the box with the quilt and into the car. No loose bees in the car during the drive home (yay for us!). We decide to leave the bees in the car for the night, and 'hive' them in the morning.

After researching the two main methods of 'hiving' we decide to give the 'traditional' method a go.

Traditional Hiving: Create a ramp from the alighting board of the the super to the ground. Lay a blanket on the ramp and drop the swarm on the bottom of the ramp. After a few minutes, some bees should go check out the new spot, and after inspection, start fanning on the alighting board. Fanning is when the workers turn their bottoms facing away from the hive entrance, expose their Nasonov gland and beat their wings very fast to distribute the 'we are here' pheromone that is coming from the gland. This tells the hive it is fine to come on up the ramp. They then parade in a very orderly fashion, into the hive.

Modern Hiving: Opening up the super, removing about 4-6 frames, dumping the swarm into the super, replacing frames and putting the lid on and bobs-your-uncle.

So, come morning, we all suit up and set up the ramp. After making sure the car hadn't been over run with bees, to our delight it wasn't, we carry the swarm box to the ramp, do another big shake, and deposit probably about 3kg of bees on the ground. True to the 'guidelines' a few bees wander up the ramp, inspect the box and come out and start fanning. Slowly, a 'beeline' starts up, and after about 20 minutes, there is a brisk line heading into the new brood box. It was quite a magic sight to watch.

Mission accomplished!

Or so we thought....

After coming back from some errands, TC meets me at the top of the drive to tell me that the swarm is now in the neighbours backyard in one of their shrubs! So, suits back on, and after assuring the neighbours we had 'done this before' (yeah, once!) we hacked the tree off at the ground, and did the modern method of hiving - shaking them into the half empty super.

Siting them back in our yard, we sit and watch them for a further hour to make sure they are maybe going to stay. Watching them on and off all afternoon, they start behaving more like a hive and do not hang up again...

Time will tell if they stay for good. Market day tomorrow, so we will have to hope they stay put for the day!