Thursday, May 27, 2010

The swarms are comin'!! The swarms are comin'!!

The last few days have been pretty damn interesting, and the weeks ahead hold the promise of much more to come. For the last month or so, I've had a full hive setup sitting outside my garage (bottom board, two deeps, two supers, mostly empty frames, top cover, etc), waiting for some free time so I could clean them out. Over the last week, I've noticed a couple honey bees checking out the digs, but they always left. Yesterday, I see a bit more activity during the day. I don't think much of it.

At about 8 pm, I get home, and hear my cell beeping its protest at having missed a call. When I check my voicemail, I have a message about a swarm on someone's porch. By the time I called her back, the swarm had already taken up residence.... in the mortar of her block porch!! Luckily for her, her father is a retired hobby beekeeper, and is taking care of her.

At the same time I'm on the phone with her, I got a text from my clown-mentor (as he's taken to calling himself), Brad, saying he's got a ton of bees in his garage. He put one of his spare hive bodies (he's got enough to supply every beekeeper in the state, just about!!) outside his garage. I called him back and went out an checked on my hive. There must have been about 20 bees flying around it. Over the next hour, we talk back and forth, watching our respective hives. Mind you, it's pretty late, and both our established hives had already bedded down for the night. The wild bees, though, were showing no signs of slowing down. We both assume that we're looking at the early stages of a swarm moving in. Then, as it got too dark to see, the bees finally left.

This morning, I go out to check at about 7, and there was already about 10-15 bees zipping around my hive. I checked in throughout the day, and saw more and more. Mid-morning, Brad called: someone sighted a swarm in a nearby park, and wants us to get it. I started grabbing up my stuff to run over. Meanwhile Brad ran over to check on the swarm. Alas, it was gone before we could get there. So, I continued on with my day. While I was out, I decided to pick up some Lemongrass oil, as it is supposed to help attract swarms. I put a few drops on the landing board. About 20 minutes later, the bee count jumped from about 10-15 to easily 40-50! And they looked like they were going in and cleaning out the frames that still had some drawn comb! The bees were super agitated coming in and out of the hive, and seemed to not notice me at all. They kept running into one another in an almost violent way, and then they would shake their abdomens violently side to side, before going back to their tasks.

Brad called me while I was in the middle of this, and told me his mother called. A nuc box he placed in her yard was being checked out by bees, with behavior similar to my group. Later, he looked outside his garage, and the hive body he placed outside was literally crawling with bees!!! He took a few pics and sent them to me. The one at the beginning of this post is one of them. He sent a few, but this is hands-down the best of them. I'm hoping that I'll get to see the same thing at my hivebox in the next few days!!!

As far as my established colony goes, I'll be doing an inspection tomorrow. I'll post again then if there are any interesting developments.


  1. Very interesting, this is the first year that I'm trying out bait hives, so hopefully they will work. Amazing picture though. When you convert to foundation-less the 9 frames in 10 frame space might be trouble, bees like a 1-1/4" broodnest space and tend to cross comb on more space. GL, I'm glad your going foundation-less!

  2. Sam, thanks for the info. Maybe I'll wait till my next hive and run 10 frames before I try foundationless.... or I'll be difficult and give it a go anyway...Nobody ever accused me of being a quick learner!!