Red maples started blooming in mid-January, and by Valentine's I had thrown on my first honey super. So no surprise that in the first week of March I happened across my first swarm, thanks to an excited neighbor who said as I got home, "Hey, Tom, you got a WHOLE HIVE over there on the fence!" Nothing puts Spring into a beekeeper's step like collecting a swarm. This was my second hived swarm, first in my apiary. Looked and felt like a 6-pounder!
The big column of bees landed on a forsythia plant, aka "Yellow Bells" which had started to bloom. I asked my neighbor to not pull that plant up, since the bees like it. The swarm was divided by the fence down the middle.
I ran inside, made up some sugar water and put it in a spray bottle, threw on a white shirt and veil, and then sprayed the swarm to make it easier to collect. Then I got my good ol' bee brush, an empty nuc box I had on hand (stapled the bottom to the body quickly), one deep frame of Plasticell foundation, and two drawn shallow combs from last year. I pulled out a couple of deep combs I had in the freezer as well. Suddenly I realized how unprepared I was equipment-wise for the season. No matter, time to get to it!
I brushed off what I could into the nuc box from one side, then quickly went to the other side.
I went to the other side, sprayed them a bit more, then bent the plant over and gave the branch a sudden shake. The column of bees fell and began to peel down. I grabbed my brush and brushed what I could into the box.
Some were on the ground, but I noticed immediately there was a fanner on the top left lip of the box.
More fanners lined up along the lid as I put the lid mostly on. A great sign which meant the queen was inside. Where she goes, so goes the swarm. Most of the bees were still on the fence. But from here on out I just waited, watched and marveled.
In about 20 minutes, the swarm began to fly and head into the box. I definitely got the queen on the first try. Nothing makes a beekeeper quite so happy!
Bees marched down the fence and along the ground, while scout bees returned from trying to find a new home for the swarm and quickly smelled the lemongrass-like scent that the bees were fanning into the air that said, "Over here, this is our new location!"
This spring sure has lots of sweet surprises so far, and we've only just started. One thing I know for sure: you can't do this in a dank, grey cubicle.
In less than 45 minutes, all of the bees had made their way into their new home. Hopefully, they'll decide to stay there. I walked the box back to the apiary, added one of the deep combs from the freezer, said a prayer of thanks and left them be. Spring is all about new beginnings, for us and for the honey bees. Enjoy the sweetness.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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