Collecting swarm at 10 Acres on 21st July 2016


all illustrations: credit Spike Gerrell’s Land of Spike

A call was received in the late afternoon that a swarm had appeared in a tree.
We, the Swarmbusters Susanne, Brian, Peter and Michele) immediately sprang into action. Ready in seconds, all tooled up we drove there, and inspected the location.








OMG! …that was a huge swarm ensconced in a mat of branches and sharp needles in a Cedar tree, 9 feet or so above ground. Puzzling how best to approach the problem, and after a short discussion – too short for some of us –  i.e. “Fools rushing where angels dare to tread” , we set up the ladder. By now the excitement and the adrenaline were running high.

d876e9_d48e98e467dc4879bd581da1b7319c10.gif_srz_116_229_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_gif_srzPicture the scene: One of us balanced on the ladder, two more holding the heavy swarm bait box  at arms length below the swarm and the last one observing and directing.

d876e9_1f5b6e5e3eee4411a0d4463f534df901A mighty shake of the tangle of branches dislodged a good many, some still clinging to the mat of branches, but still too many flying around angrily.
But, was the QUEEN in the box?
We carefully upturned the box on the ground, leaving a small gap for the rest of the bees to crawl in…
Lo! And Behold! four hours later they were all in the bait box!  We slid the lid underneath  carrying the lot to the car, then we drove home. It  was getting dark.


Meanwhile, back at the farm, Peter had set up the hive to receive them. And ready with a torch.
d876e9_ad001ba9e7344f9c89deb5be9103bfe4When we were ready to dump the bees in the brood box, we found them all over the sides of the bait box, not as a cluster, which made it more problematic as to how to get them all in. Brian administered some very hard knock onto the box, then with a light brushing most started to fall in. Some still clung to the bait box.
Hoping that Madam was unharmed and in the brood box, we set the bait box with its opening towards the hive entrance on my best ivory coloured table cloth.
We closed the hive and went away.
Next morning they were All in!

honeybees swarming

They don’t always follow the book…

Our beekeeping season 2016 so far

Our two G-colonies overwintered very well. One had one brood box, the other one had two, as we merged a queen-right colony with a queenless one in autumn last year.

In April we split the 2-broodbox hive. As we didn’t find the queen, it was a bit trial and error. But now both hives are thriving and show fresh and capped brood as well as lots of honey, nectar and pollen storage. So they’ve sorted themselves out.

In May & June, we caught 4 swarms

The first swarm (G4), a large one, arrived in a big Weigelia shrub on the plot where we keep our G-hives. We hived them, gave them a donated brood frame (from G1) and a feeder. They stayed happily (it seemed) for 4 weeks until suddenly they decided to swarm again. The donated brood had all died (starved?). They left no honey behind, just a tiny crowd of bees who disappeared after a few days. They probably begged their way in to another hive.

The second swarm (G5), a small one, arrived a week later on the same Weigelia. We hived them, gave them a feeder which they emptied, and gave them a donated brood frame from G3. However we’ve discovered now that they let the whole brood die (why?), and they don’t seem to be queen-right. Just honey, nectar and pollen, but no brood on the frames (we took the dead brood out). The plan is now to merge them with another small but queen-right colony in G6.

The third swarm (G6), a small one, was caught at the bottom of a rosebush in a village garden. We found lots of dead bees on the ground, probably because they had been on this bush for a whole week in very cold and windy weather. So they might have died from starvation or of thirst. We hived them, fed them and gave them a donated brood frame (from G3). This very small lot has settled in quite well and has fresh and capped brood as well as nectar, pollen and honey.

Swarmlet 2  20th JuneThe fourth swarm (G4) arrived yesterday evening, clinging to the roof and side of G6. We think it’s probably a cast swarm, so it would have a virgin queen. We positioned the empty G4 hive next to the swarm on G6, hived most of the swarm and fed it, left the entrance open over night for all to move in. But this morning Michele found they had come out again and clung to their old location on G6. This early morning we saw the queen –  So Michele hived most of them again in G4 and moved G4 away from G6 (hopefully we’ll get the rest this afternoon) or this evening, the entrance is now closed. Some German beekeeper told us to leave a swarm enclosed even for 3 days!

The question is now: If this swarm has a virgin queen, how long will she take to settle in the new home before going out to mate? Some beekeepers even say, if there are several rainy days, and the colony cannot swarm, a swarm may have all kinds of queens, laying + virgins. So there could be more than one virgin in the cast. Apparently a virgin queen has a window of opportunity to mate that is about 4 weeks long.

So we’ll better leave them in peace for a while …