I had the opportunity to catch a swarm this afternoon. My daughter was able to take some really cool pictures. For a better view, click on the picture to enlarge it.
It all happened around 2:00 Sat afternoon. The new neighbor came over to tell me that her backyard had a lot of bees in it. She's new and so is still standoffish about the bees so I figured this was just another easily explained routine phenomenon she hadn't seen before.
I walked over to her house where I found a 3 lbs swarm of bees clustering to the low hanging branches of a shrub and hundreds maybe thousands of bees swirling around. It was impressive.
Turning to the neighbor I assured her this was not normal and ran home and got my veil, some shrub loopers, a bow saw and a back saw. I also grabbed a "swarm trap" I had made from a 5 gallon bucket last year. The bucket lid is modified with number 4 metal cloth in such a way that the bees can enter but not leave.
The first thing I did was spray the cluster with sugar water so the bees wouldn't be able to fly. Then I trimmed the outer fringes of the shrub so I could access the main cluster. I shook any bees that were gathering on the outer leaves into the bucket and quickly put the lid back on.
I was keeping an eye out for the queen. Finding the queen makes things much easier. The bees are attracted to her pheromones so I figured she was at the middle of the main cluster.
Finally, I was able to position the bucket directly under the main cluster and I sharply shook the branch, dropping most of the bees into the bucket. I quickly snapped the lid on.
Those bees that I had missed with the sugar water quickly regathered on the main branch. I reapplied the sugar water. The branch was too thick to “snap” the remaining bees (including the queen?) so I cut it off using a “back” saw. That’s a saw the cuts on both forward and back pull. It worked perfectly in the small space among the bees. Once I had the branch free I was able to hold it over the bucket and shake it more firmly. Now most of the swarm was in the bucket.
Although I didn’t see her, the queen was apparently in the bucket as those bees still flying around soon found their way into the bucket. In all it took about 45 mins to capture the swarm. I was lucky the swarm had stopped to consolidate on a low shrub prior to moving on to a permanent nest.
Fortunately, I have some extra square hive equipment and was able to have the swarm in a permanent hive in a couple of hours.
I also took the time to discover rather or not the swarm was from my hives or not. It wasn't.
Now I'm wondering what to do with the hive. I can't keep it as a separate hive because my yard is too small; DK is at his limit with the 3 hives I already have.
First, I can try to find out whose bees they are. The problem with that is no one brands their bees
so they could belong to anyone. Suburban beekeepers don’t tend to advertise so although I know that there are several beekeepers around me, I have no idea exactly who or where they are. Given that, I most likely will check out the personality of the colony and if it's non stinging and pleasant to work with I'll add it to my other hives.
As a note, swarms generally do not present any danger to humans but they are impressive and there are a lot of bees in the air. The last thing they do before leaving the hive is fill their stomachs with honey so they are full and sluggish during the swarm. The last thing they want to do is fight anyone. During the entire adventure there was only one sting between my daughter and me and that was my fault.
So what do you do if you see a swirling mass of honey bees descending on your property? Call a beekeeper if you know one, they most like will be very excited. If you don’t know any beekeepers call the non-emergency number of your local police. They will put you in touch with animal control that will have a contact number for the local bee clubs. I know those folks will be excited.