Second swarm

When it rains, it pours! Yesterday I got to do my second honeybee swarm capture in as many days. If this keeps up I’ll have to start giving them away!

I was out in the garden with Sofía when I noticed an increase in the volume of the bees and looked up to see dozens of them darting high up all over the place. All of a sudden they started descending. I ran over and scooped up Sofía and took her inside. She was delighted to watch Dora in the middle of the day – what a treat! – so I had some time to fetch my bee suit and see what would happen.

And this time, the swarm capture couldn’t have been easier.

The branch was in easy reach of my ladder, and small enough to cut with hand pruners.

I just climbed up, squirted them with sugar water, snipped the branch, and laid it in the box and closed the lid. Easy-peasy – the whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. I made a video of it too, much shorter than the last one.

I moved the hive later in the evening and hoped for the best. The bees were still around this morning, which means they’ve probably decided to stay! If they end up as an established colony, they’ll be named Chai, or maybe Honeybush.

But of course that was too easy and I had to go introduce some difficulty. I worried about why there had been two swarms in two days and I cracked open Lady Grey – and forgot my smoker!  I’ll never do that again. After about 30 minutes of my rooting around inside their domain the bees full-on attacked me and I have 14 stings to show for it, some welts bigger than my outstretched hand, lumps visible through my jeans when I crouch. Yikes.

So I’ll never omit the smoker again for non-swarming bees, but I did figure out the mystery. Lady Grey was becoming a queen-making factory. (Apparently bees will only build upwards, so the brand-new box I’d installed below them was untouched but they still felt crowded). I crushed all the nascent queen cells – which should mean no more swarming – and put the empty box on top instead so the bees will feel they have lots of room and no need split the colony up.

They could also have been making so many queens because their own current queen is unacceptable/dead. I will check in a few days for new eggs. If she’s dead (no eggs in evidence), I’ll slap this newest swarm onto Lady Grey and requeen it that way. But if I check in a few days and there are new eggs (in a good tight pattern) then that means that Lady Grey just birthed me two free colonies.

It also means I have a lot more expensive bee boxes to order… and a decision to make. Should I cancel my bee order for the 14th? Do I want 2-3 colonies, or 3-4 colonies? I’m kind of thinking maybe I should keep it slow for a while and cancel the bee order. Though of course I’m also greedy and want all the honey I can get! Thoughts from you guys?

I’m afraid that I may still get no honey this year, despite now having 3 colonies. See, each swarm depletes a colonies’ worker population by a big amount. A colony of bees needs to be a certain critical size in order to amass enough honey to survive the winter plus excess. If they are too few in number, they won’t make enough honey to feed both themselves and me. (That’s why I wanted to put an end to the swarming; I didn’t want any further population splits.) So I’m thinking these three little colonies may just be too small for honey harvest this year – we’ll have to wait and see. And hope. Hope hard.

2 Responses to “Second swarm”

  1. Sam Smith Says:

    I had this happen to one of my hives last year, they produced several swarms, unfortunately they did not survive the endeavour. For reasons unknown to me they had over 10 queen cells before the swarming started, so I’m wondering if I had removed all but 3 if maybe they would have swarmed only once. btw bees LIKE to build down, in a natural cavity they start at the top, Congratz on the new hives :) welcome to the world of beeking O-natural!

  2. Diane Says:

    How cool! We’re (very) newbie beekeepers so I’m watching & learning for when we get our first swarm. Thanks for sharing!

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