Thursday, May 1, 2008

Same swarm - second verse

  • The continuing saga of the second swarm, in which the bees are deprived of clustering opportunities above and have nowhere to go but into the hive.

The swarm that we posted about yesterday offered us some additional excitement today.

I went over to the farm early this morning to make sure everything was okay, and I noticed that a fistful of bees was still hovering in the limbs just above the hive. Inside the hive was a massive number of bees, so I decided not to worry about those in the tree too much, figuring they would eventually make their way into the hive.

Instead, the opposite happened.

As the day continued into the afternoon, the number of bees in the tree increase. They were still nowhere near the number of the original swarm, but it was worrisome. I opened the hive and shook the limb, which dropped a few bees into the hive and quite a few onto the ground -- many of which crawled into the hive. Still, almost immediately, a significant number gathered back in the tree.

When I got back to the house later in the afternoon, I talked with my friend and master beekeeper Coley O'Dell. He knew exactly what was happening. The bees were clustering around the scent left by the queen on the limb. I could take care of that by shaking the bees off the limb and cutting the limb and dragging it away.

Sounded right to me, but easier said than done. The limb they were clustering around was about 15 feet off the ground, and I didn't have a good ladder to get me there. I bought an extended limb cutter from the coop, suited up in my bee gear and went to work. Every time I would cut a limb where the bees were clustering, they would cluster around another limb. Apparently, the queen had left her sent on a variety of limbs.

It took a while, but I managed to cut all of the limbs where the bees were clustering. Since they had no place to go, they eventually landed on the ground next to the hive and started clustering around the Boardman feeder that I had place on the front of the hive. Then, as if they were a military unit, they started marching into the hive.

That was a beautiful sight. And, I hope, to the end of the Saga of the Second Swarm.

Additional note:

During our conversation this afternoon, Coley reminded me of something very valuable. In gathering swarms, you always worry about where the queen is, and generally you don't know if she's inside the hive or out. Coley said that when you have a swan, the hive will empty out within 20 minutes if the queen isn't there. Good to keep that in mind.

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