Swarm catching

29 03 2013


Swarm in the tree before capture

Bees are the most amazing things.  And they never cease to amaze us.  Furthermore, if you ever want proof that the climate’s going haywire, keep bees…….. because today, a whole month (almost) into Autumn, one of our hives swarmed.  Lucky thing we even spotted them, because we had a late breakfast on the deck when it happened, and had we been inside as we would normally have been on such another hot day, we would never have noticed…..

Bees usually swarm when they run out of room in their hive.  For this to happen, you need prolific amounts of bee food (pollen from flowers), and it needs to be warm.  Obviously, following on from the recent torrential rains, there’s a lot happening in the nearby bush.  Last time we looked in the hives, about three


Preparing the capture

weeks ago to replace the beetle traps, we figured there was maybe an outside chance we could rob the hives one more time before winter set in.  But our strongest hive had other ideas…

For the uninitiated, when a hive swarms, the queen decides to leave for greener pastures (or at least less crowded ones), and some 2/3 of the rest of the bees follow her.  They eventually cluster on a tree somewhere, with the queen at the heart of the cluster, covered by many many thousands of worker bees to protect her.  Should anything happen to her, the whole colony would die, or else it may return to the old hive. Drones are then sent out to scout for a new appropriate place to hive, and if left to

The bees have dropped

The bees have dropped

their own device, that would be a hollow in a tree somewhere……  If you’re lucky enough, and have all the appropriate gear ready for such an occasion, you can take over this process and put all the bees (and hopefully the queen!) in a prepared hive, before they decide to go elsewhere.


Finishing off

So I rang our beekeeping partners, Paul and Robyn, who had a 10 frame hive with sufficient frames to do the job.  They were here in under twenty minutes, and the bees were still waiting for us.  Of course, bees rarely pick easy places to pluck them from, though this time around it wasn’t all that hard, we just had to bash some Lantana down and do some pruning on the Wattle tree they picked as a resting place.  The worst aspect of all this, for me, was as usual the heat…..  it gets hot in one of those suits in the full sun, even if they are white….!

Paul cut the Wattle’s trunk part of the way to allow us to drop the bees to ground level, and the new hive, sans frames, was placed underneath.  Once the bees are just above the hive, you just shake them, and they drop into the hive.  It’s as simple as that, really…. if you know what you’re doing!  If you have the queen in the box, the other bees will not leave her, and as we could see they were all chomping at the bit to get in, it was obvious we had been successful.  It just remained to place the frames in the box, and eventually cover it up with a fresh lid.

I know that to people who’ve never done this it may look terribly exciting, even dangerous, but in fact bees are at their most docile when swarming, because all those bees are actually full of honey, and none of us have ever been stung while catching swarms….   Glenda was there to document the whole event, and I can bring it all to you in glorious colour to read on a quiet Good Friday….

When the queen leaves, she would normally have left some queen cells in the hive for the next generation to take over.  Those cells hatch a new queen, and the hive regenerates…. so catching a swarm gives you a whole new hive, for free.  Aren’t they just awesome?  And all the wattle trimmings were fed to the goats…….