It's swarm here on the farm
After a run of bad weather, as the temperature rises the beekeeper has to be vigilant during hive inspections to spot any signs of swarm preparations and ready to take preventative action. That's a whole different subject and one that I'm sure I will comment on later. However, as I was looking at one of my hives I heard the noise, and sensed the activity of the adjacent hive escalating. They were up to something.
This colony should not be swarming but it was. I'd previously performed a 'split' where I took a good half of the brood nest and set it up as another colony elsewhere. I also managed to take the Queen along with it so the parent colony should have settled down to make a new Queen. That's what the books say. The problem is bees don't read the books. That's why they hum; they don't know the words. Sorry! Anyway, this undisciplined lot decided to divide itself and half of them left with a queen and settled in the apple tree to the left. Grrr?
Look at it. It's even made itself into a smile shape as if it knows it 's mischief! Actually, although the noise sounds threatening they soon settle. The bees are full of honey ready to build wax comb in their new home. They are in fine spirits and you can gently touch the cluster with a bare hand, to which they feel warm and silky. Amazing. This is an interim stage whilst the scout bees assess various new homes. Each one returns, does a little 'dance' to indicate the whereabouts of their choice. Their friends then go and check it out. If they like it they too will dance and eventually by a miracle of democracy one site will attract more dancing than the rest and the decision is made. The beekeeper needs to capture them before their mind is made otherwise they'll be off.
So, I grabbed a branch, held the swarm over a cardboard box, and gave a vigorous shake to send most of the cluster into the box. Bees were left on the tree and many were buzzing around so the box was upended on a sheet on the ground with a handy stone to create an entrance.
After things have calmed a bit, some bees raised their bums in the air and fanned their wings. This is great because they are spreading pheromones with the message that the Queen is here, come and join us. Within half an hour those bees left wondering what had happened had latched on and marched into the box to join Her Majesty. It is best to leave things like this until dusk to make sure that all the flying bees have joined the colony. Meanwhile, although I pointed out that bees don't know words, mine are getting quite good at letters:-
I'm not sure what the parent colony was trying to tell me, but with more practice perhaps we can write the perfect beekeeping manual together!
When I returned at dusk all was quiet. the tree was clean and no bees were flying. The stone was removed and the sheet wrapped around the box so that the swarm could be transported and directed into its new home. I will take a look in a week or so's time and see how they are settling in.