Thursday, July 15, 2010

A swarm in July, not worth a fly?


Brad the clown mentor called yesterday, and told me he got a swarm call. So I loaded up the kids, and drove the 45 minutes to Oil City. Sure enough, there was a swarm up in a cedar tree. Right beside the cedar, stands a maple, with an opening in the bark, down near the ground, with bees coming and going as well, perfect for a trap-out next spring. We're assuming the swarm came from the maple. At any rate, the guy that called us told us the bees have been in the tree for years, despite several efforts on his parts to chemically eradicate them. So we're looking at great genetics, and a locally raised hive, giving the swarm excellent chances. Plus, it was a pretty big cluster.


The swarm was up about 10-15 feet, near the end of a branch. Brad brought a 5 foot folding ladder, having been told it was about 8 feet up. We couldn't reach with his ladder, but luckily, we were able to lean a long extension ladder against the homeowners's truck, and, with Brad holding the bottom, I climbed up, grabbed the limb, and lopped it off. I'd guess that the cluster was about 4 or 5 pounds, about double the size of a package. Then I climbed down, and we shook the bees into the box... sorta....

The bees fell down into the box, just fine, with a good number taking flight. It was pretty amazing to see. I turned to Brad and said, "Not bad, almost looks like we've done this before." The homeowner looked at me with a nervous look on his face and said, "You have, haven't you?!?!" NOPE!!!

Now for the "sorta".... while we were watching, we looked up and saw, right where I cut the branch off, a small cluster of bees gathering. As the minutes ticked by, the cluster got bigger, while the number inside the box got smaller, until, finally, all the bees were out of the box and back in the tree. The cluster looked about twice the size as when we started, though.

OK, time for plan B.... We tossed the box up on Brad's folding ladder, and strapped it to the tree. It's got drawn comb, some honey, and lemongrass oil (a swarm attractant) in it. The bees were definitely showing interest, and we're hoping they will like it enough to move in. We'll check back later in the week to see.

In hindsight, we could have done a few things differently. Next time, we're going to put an excluder under the bottom box, and cover it immediately with a second excluder, as soon as we shake them in, thus keeping the queen in the box. We've also discussed smoking them, though that always seems to make bees take flight, in my experience. We also discussed spraying them with sugar water, much like a new package. Oh well, live and learn, trial and error, whatever you wanna call it.

All in all, the homeowner seemed happy we were even willing to come out. He didn't want to kill the bees, but he didn't want them in his yard, especially right by the driveway. He was astonished by how unconcerned we were with getting stung. He was even more shocked by how brave our kids were, especially when Madeline let a bee crawl onto her hand so she could show people how gentle they are. He is a little more apprehensive, and was more than willing to let us handle the bee duties. Hopefully, we can successfully get the swarm off his property, and in the spring, we can go back and set up a trap-out for the remaining bees.

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