Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Honeybees....catching a swarm!

Our Beekeeping Association held a  field night this spring.  The plan was to grill out, share side dishes and work a couple of hives at a local farm.  When we arrived everyone was very excited...lots of running around, shouting etc.  We parked and walked to the picnic area and found out what all the "buzzzzz" was about.  One of the hives had just swarmed and the swarm was still there!  These new beekeepers were going to get to see first hand how to capture a hive!

When bees swarm they don't sting...or so theI've been told.  No one was stung that night and we were all pretty close.  If this had been planned, they couldn't have done a better job.  The dark spot on the limb is the swarm.  It was down low and easily accessible.

The Swarm!

A cloth is spread so that the queen isn't lost in the dirt and leaves...then a hive body is placed under the swarm so that the bees can be "knocked" into the hive.

The swarm!

Then the limb was lowered over the box as close as they could get it.  Once positioned, they gave it a good hard knock which caused the swarm to drop into the box.

Lowering the limb

They continued to work to brush the bees that clung to the limb down into the box.  It seemed like many of them were flung all over the cloth and I wondered how they would get them all into the hive...

Brushing bees!

They were hoping the queen (who is usually in the middle of the swarm) fell into the box.  Seems that once she is there, and if she likes it (you know how picky we can be about our homes!) then she sends out a signal that this is the place and all the worker bees just line up and march home...it was unbelievable!

Heading home!

The bees began climbing the cloth and headed right for the door (that little ledge on the front of the hive!).  They marched in and got busy...one of the gentleman began knocking on the hive...he knocked repeatedly....over and over......and over and over....you get the drift...have I mentioned that repetitive noise gives me a headache?  The knocking went on for an hour!  I asked some of the older, more experienced beekeepers why the knocking was important .....some of them said bees were attracted to the noise and some of them told me it made a good show....ahem...

The class went on to work the other hives and they were loaded with busy bees....

Hard working bees!

The tan places are capped brood and the holes within the tan are either hatched bees or uncapped brood.  Brood, of course, means babies!

Can you find the queen?

The bee in the above picture with the long brown body tipped with black is a virgin queen that has been newly hatched.  Either she and the established queen will fight to see who rules the hive or she will take part of the bees and swarm before the other queen can kill her.

By the time they were done working the established hives, these bees had completely entered their new home.  The "front door" was secured so they couldn't get out, a strap was placed around the hive so that the pieces wouldn't separate during travel (what a horrifying thought!...hordes of angry bees in your vehicle!) and they were placed in a truck to head to their new home!

This is a very inexpensive way to increase your apiary and one that we hope to employ over the years.  The trick is to be always ready with a hive body and a cloth.  I have also heard that a drop or two of lemongrass essential oil placed in the hive acts as a lure.

One of my readers left a comment that I wanted to share with ya'll...

Dan was kind enough to share....
May I recommend the book “Natural beekeeping : organic approaches to modern apiculture”
by Conrad, Ross

I read this one this past winter and I think there are some really helpful ideas and tips for reducing the reliance on chemical aids for mites, etc. I found it in our library.

Thanks Dan! I know that I will be looking for this book since we won't be using chemicals in our hives.  We are also planting spearmint around the hives as this is supposed to be helpful in controlling mites....as well as adding spearmint essential oil to some sugar water when they are fed.

If ya'll know of any helpful "natural" tips in raising bees, please leave a note in the comment section!



  1. I heard a trick from a bee-keeper who didn't like carrying heavy supers to bee swarms.

    Simply bring a medium sized cardboard box, spray a little Lemon Pledge in the box and hold it up to the hive. The bees will zip right into it, for transport to the supers.

    I have not tried this myself, just what I heard.

  2. We still need to drag out and clean our old hive so we can get it going again.

    Thank you for the detailed pictures and instructions!


  3. Hello! Thank you for the succint explanation and pictures. I am new to beekeeping this year and found the story very interesting. A friend of mine forwarded this email to me. Do you have a blog I can look at for future reference? Thanks! Jerlene Cannon

  4. Yes, thank you for all beekeeping information! Maybe it'll keep us from making all the same mistakes ourselves when we start beekeeping.

  5. Rob,
    Thanks for sharing...I think that serves the same purpose as the lemongrass essential oil.

    Do that! If we have more than one swarm, we will need to give it away!



Related Posts with Thumbnails