Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to catch a hanging swarm of Honey Bees!!

So you walk out to check your Honey Bees, and you see this.....? What to do now? And where did they come from? See the hive closest to the swarm of bees? It's hive #4, and they've decided to swarm out, and get ready to LOOK FOR A NEW HOME!! Let's give them one!
Note the TIME OF YEAR, the date on the photo. This is the time of year when we see HUGE swarms of bees. They can be rather large. This one is a good size, but not huge. Also notice the honey suckle limbs that are in the way? They have to be clipped out of the way, carefully.

Inside this cluster of bees, is the OLD QUEEN. Likely, I won't see her as we work these bees, but she is there, ...in the middle some where. They're simply hangin' out while SCOUT BEES go out and look for a new home.

Once the Scout Bees find a pretty good home, they'll come back and DANCE on the cluster very aggressively, in order to convince their sisters to come along with her. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. They might hang here for a day, or 2, but not much more than that. Then, they're off.

An important tip here; once you come out and SEE the bees hanging....just remember, they SEE YOU too! And then, the GAME IS ON! If you don't go get your equipment right away and catch them back, likely they'll fly off to hang in a more private location. This has happened to me more than a few times. When you SEE THEM, they SEE YOU....catch them back NOW!!

The first step is to spray them down with a bottle of scented sugar water. You can put a little vanilla in your bottle of sugar water, and spritz them down, wet their wings...make them think about EATING, and not LEAVING. They'll fidget a little bit, but settle down and chill out. Just remember, they're LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME....that's all. So, give them one!

Now it's time to gently clip out the small SECONDARY limbs, and get them out of your way so you can get ready to dump them in a Nuc box. This is a classic, easy catch for a Beekeeper.

Once the secondary limbs are clipped out of the way, find the MAIN limb that the bees are hanging on to. Bees which have swarmed, are GORGED with honey....they chose to leave their home, in order to start a new one. Therefore, they must take as much honey as they can suck up, in order to build wax inside their new digs!! They're HEAVY. Slide the EMPTY nuc box up under this cluster of bees, and hold it firmly.

Once you've found the main limb, reach up with your free hand and clip the main limb gently. The bees will fall into the EMPTY nuc box......set the box down right under where they're where just hanging. Remember, you have Scout bees coming back, and they'll be looking for their Sisters and Queen.
Once the box is on the ground, reach in and grab the main limb. Gently shake off all the bees.

Place this main limb, just in front of the Nuc box. TIP; the Queen pheromone is on this main limb!! The other bees are looking for this limb. Leave it there in front of the Nuc box for a little while. Also, do you see the "white stuff" along the main limb, we just sat down in front of the Nuc box? That's small bits of wax that they laid down while hanging there. Cool uh? The bees now crawling on the limb, are likely scout bees who have returned and are looking for their Queen. A bit confused, they'll quickly determine that she is now inside, and head on in to check out their new house.

Now gently place your frames down inside the Nuc. DO NOT push the frames down! Remember, you have a pile of bees in the bottom, trying to get themselves oriented to their new house. Simply set the frames on top of them, carefully. As they come up and onto the frames, the frames will sink into the Nuc.

When you see the bees coming up and around the frames, they'll quickly take ownership of their new home! They're like little kids at this point. They'll run up and down the frames, very excited to have a new place to call home! Watch them and enjoy this moment. It's rather funny. They get just as excited to have a new house, as children do when we buy a new home! They go goofy!! Give them a fresh jar of good sugar water, on a porch feeder, and watch how they act on the porch. Bees want a Queen, food, and a safe home. If the Queen is inside, they'll POOCH backwards on the porch and fan hard. They'll point their bottoms up in the air, and roll out their Nosanov gland, telling their sisters to come home! "Come home! Come home! Our Queen is here! The food is here! And we've found our new home!" This is what you're looking for, once you have the bees in the Nuc. Put the lid on and let them settle down. You can plug the Nuc later in the day, well after sundown, and move the Nuc where you want to set it permanently. Leave them plugged, until early the next morning. Pull the plug early the next morning, and walk away. Leave them alone. They're sensitive, tender and a bit shy. I won't go back and check on them for a week or two. The Queen will crawl all over the frames, and the more she does, the more of her pheromone she spreads around. The more she crawls around, the greater the chances are that they'll stay put. If you have lots of other bee hives, a simple way to LOCK THEM DOWN, is to give them a fresh frame of BROOD, from another hive, but MINUS the bees. This is my INSURANCE POLICY in order to keep them in the box. If you don't have a frame of brood, just keep giving them good sugar water, they'll do the rest. When you do move them, try to move them 80 to 150 yards away from the hive that they just left. Otherwise, they may decided to just up and leave again. Bees will do, what bees want to do. Rathe independent little critters too!

Congratulations! You've just caught a swarm of Honey Bees! And the best thing is....that CAUGHT SWARMS produce LOTS and LOTS of honey! They really work hard! Get ready! Enjoy!

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