Catching a swarm of bees ( with photos )
Whilst drinking a coffee outside yesterday morning on a clear blue Sunday morning, I noticed there seemed to be a few more bees flying about around the terrace than normal. It made me wonder whether the feral colony in the gate pillar was thinking of swarming. An hour later, whilst reading the Sunday newspaper in the bath, my wife called to say there was a swarm. I jumped out and in a towel, was able to see that ’000′s of bees were airborne coming from the gate pillar. I always like to catch this colony, as there has been a feral colony in this pillar for 10+ years and my believe is that they have built up an immunity to varroa. All experts I speak to about this, disagree. However, I have watched this colony for more than 10 years coming and going. I know they are not a new swarm annually finding this pillar as a nest, as I see them in winter when the sun is on the pillar and there are a few flying outside the entrance.
Kitting up, I went and had a close look at the swarm, which was now starting to cluster on the wooden fence, only 5 yards from the gate pillar they were swarming from. In the past when I have caught them swarming, they have clustered on a branch close by, which has made it easy for me to capture them. This time they chose to cluster along the side of the fence.
Looking closely at the swarm clustering, I was surprised I saw the queen. Grabbing a few photos, I was hoping she would remain in the same area within the cluster as I got everything together. I placed a hive in the garden, which had new wax foundation plus 3 frames of drawn comb. I built a ramp up to the entrance and covered this with a white sheet. The hive was open, so hopefully I could get the queen in, close the lid and the others would join her.
My wife got into one of my beesuits, ( as you can see it is far too big for her ) and she held a travel box under the area where I had seen the queen. I quickly brushed a good number of bees into the box, hoping that I had the queen. I shook the bees into the top of the hive and quickly added the crown board. Was she in ? I was confident she was. We continued sweeping bees into the travel box and dumping them on to the white sheet. About 6 box loads of bees got dumped on to the sheet and I knew the queen was in the hive, when I saw the bees all running up the sheet and into the hive entrance to join her. Within an hour they were all in. I left them, as we were going out to lunch with friends and returned in the evening, removing the ramp and sheet. Normally I don’t feed a swarm for 48 hours, as they have engorged themselves with honey before they swarmed. However, this morning was wet, so the bees couldn’t forage and tomorrow is forecasting showers. I therefore have now added a feeder and hopefully this will sustain them and help them to draw out the foundation, whilst we wait again for fine weather.