Yesterday afternoon we were called by a neighbor who had a bee swarm in a tree near her house. We promptly headed over and captured the colony, and it got us to thinking this might be a good subject to address this time of year.
In the Spring as bee hives begin to swell with increasing numbers of workers in preparation for the nectar flow, often the accommodations becomes too crowded. A well managed apiary addresses this by offering the hive additional room or by splitting the hive into two independent colonies. Every now and then, however, the bees naturally split and the mature queen takes 50-65% of the hive with her to find a new home. This activity is called a “swarm”.
A swarm often looks like a miniature cloud of migrating birds ebbing and flowing low through the air in a big blob. Below is a picture of the swarm we caught yesterday beginning to consolidate into a cluster on the tree branch (left side of the tree). They leave the old hive and normally take up temporary residence only a few 100 yards from their previous home. Here they cluster around the queen in a ball about the size of a football and begin sending out scouts to find a suitable new location to build their new hive. The cluster is normally only around for 24-72 hours before they all take off and head to their new permanent location.
This is when people often find bees in their attics, soffits, porch columns, etc. If you see bees clustered near your home it is best to call a bee keeper quickly; not only for the sake of the bees, but also the sake of your home. Bee swarms are very easy to remove, while established hives within your home can be expensive. Here at Cartermere, if a swarm is easily accessible we currently capture them at no cost because we want the bees. Some other bee keepers charge a modest amount to remove them ($50-$75). We strongly recommend not calling a traditional exterminator when you have a swarm in your yard. Call a bee keeper. They’ll be cheaper and they are interested in the welfare of the bees.
Once we have prepped our woodware (hive box and accessories), we spray the cluster of bees with simple sugar water to calm them. While the hive box is held just below the cluster, we give the branch a quick jolt and the cluster falls into the box.
With the bees captured we begin replacing the remaining frames into the hive where the workers will start pulling their wax comb for the queen to lay her eggs and get the next generation of honey bees up and running.
After closing the hive we leave it below the tree until dark when all the scouts are back inside. We go back and pick up the hive at night and move it to one of the apiaries at the farm. When the girls awake in the morning they come out to find their new environment.
If you happen to find a cluster of bees in your yard in the NW Collin County area, please give us a call and we’ll do our best to promptly come and make them a part of Cartermere Farms.