My Swarm-Catching Cherry Has Been Popped…

…It happened while watering the “back 40” crops on Sunday afternoon.

I always look at the different bee colonies to check their behavior and noticed nothing out of the ordinary that day- just bees coming, going, and doing their thing. My back had been turned on the hives closest to the main garden no more than 10 minutes, when I heard the roar. A dark cloud of bees appeared before my very eyes. They clustered on a pine tree branch just a few yards from the entrance of their hive. This all happened 15 feet from my mosquito-bitten, sweaty face.

DSCF6162   This was my view for the swarm show. Colony on the right swarmed.

“Holy crap, they just swarmed.” I actually said this out loud to myself. Excitement and panic came over me and I ran up to the house, grabbed an empty storage tub and a sheet, threw on by bee suit, and headed back out.

This was the best-case scenario for a swarm. 1- I witnessed it. 2- they gathered in my yard on a branch that was only 5 ft. high and I could easily reach them. So, I placed the storage tub under the cluster of bees and gave the branch a good whack. They fell into the tub. I quickly covered it with the sheet and put it in the shade.

Being totally unprepared for this, I had to assemble some wax foundation frames and put together a hive for these agitated ladies. After racing around for about 45 minutes, I was finally ready to put them in a new hive. I misted them with a little sugar water hoping that they would be more concerned with cleaning each other than stinging me. With a good tap to the side of the tub, they fell to the bottom and I was able to shake them out into their new home with minimal retaliation.

DSCF6165     Will they stay or will they go?!?  Swarm colony in 6-frame nuc box.

It’s been two days now and they are still there. I am watching them closely, but will basically leave them alone for a couple weeks. Hopefully they will decide to stay and call it home. Even if they don’t, it has been an incredible learning experience that I couldn’t find in a classroom. This is only my 3rd year as a beekeeper and I finally got to catch a swarm. Oh-so-glad the first one was easy. The next one they’ll probably be thirty feet up in the maple trees. Wait…I shouldn’t have said that.

So, if anyone ever tells you that first-year colonies don’t swarm…bet them a bunch of money and refer them to this blog.

DSCF6177          Olive loves her summer haircut.  4-legged love of my life.

DSCF6164  This Elvira grape vine was left for dead on a clearance rack at the end of the growing season 2015. It had one little wilting leaf left on it. I bought it for 2 bucks.

The farm is alive and well on all fronts. Plants, ducks, and bee colonies are all growing. The ducks are enjoying their new outside home a bit early thanks to the warm weather. They are about 5 1/2 weeks old now and getting bigger every day. 2 are females. 1 male.

Make sure to add raccoon trapper to my resume. We had one making a nice home for himself under the shed. I don’t like to kill unnecessarily, so I took him for a drive instead. I wonder what he thought of the whole experience. He definitely didn’t stick around to thank me when I opened the trap door. Guh-bye!

That’s what I love about this life- the change, the surprises, the humbling lessons, and the connection to the earth. I am the richest man in the world with the smallest bank account.

-Steve

DSCF6171         The ladies hard at work while the mullein plant looks on.

 

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