Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Attempting to Catch a Bee Swarm

Here is one of my beehives attempting to swarm. I know because they're THAT busy and the hive is in the shade. My hives aren't that productive. The bees begin swarming around the entrance waiting for the queen to emerge. Once she's out the swarm takes to the air and a cloud of bees fills the air. They don't go very far at first though.

Swarms land close to the parent hive at first. They do this to, first off make sure they have a queen, workers make the final decision if they're going with that queen or staying with the old hive, and they make sure they have enough food stores to make this new hive happen. In this case they're landing on my neighbor's house. My neighbors were so Cool about this though, thank god! Lots of people get angry and kill sitting swarms of bees. I've even herd of cases where neighbors are okay with swarms but their neighbors aren't and go ahead and "take care of that bee problem for yah."

Hanging swarms are ones where the bees are out in the open and they will move on. In the mean time call you local county office and request a beekeeper, tell them you have $100 hanging in a tree for them. Referring to the bees of course. Here is where some odd etiquette happens. The beekeeper is up 1 hive from this which is easily worth $100 by itself. They remove it for the home owner but should the home owner be charged money for this? It's polite to give gas money so that's $5 about but it's so small why bother. I suppose the home owner should pay money if they have demands, such as not damaging a tree, or removing a swarm because it's in the way of business or an event.

But then we have the Huge Spectacle Swarm. The one where police have roped off a bush, shut down two lanes of traffic, and the local news media has shown up. Here the beekeeper is regarded as a hero usually and that's their reward, minus some asshole being quoted in the local paper as "Beekeeper's Swarm Run Amuck."

So it's better to not let swarms happen or control them as you see fit. Splitting Hives is always an option but they don't always work. Even after dividing the hive they may still swarm. Thankfully there are a few products on the market to help catch swarms.

Bee Charm and Swarm Lore, which are probably variations of Lemon Grass Oil, all attract Honey Bees and help gain favor over a swarming hive. Vials of scent or creams placed inside a swarm catching box. 

These can be setup around the yard and potentially attract some bees. The sweet fragrance that fills the box helps make up for the failings of the potential spot. Bees are picky.

Scout bees fly around the box and check it out. 1 or 2 bees though isn't a good sign at all. When you start seeing more than 40 checking out a box though that's when you know a swarm is on it's way. This is particularly helpful when you have swarms high up in the trees. 

The normal method to get a swarm (yes there's one in this picture) that high up involves taking a frame of brood from the old nest, throwing a rope up to them, and shimmying the frame up to them. The nurse bees take care of the brood and the whole thing snow balls. The hive can then be lowered down and safely caught. Some of us though can't throw that high.

So there's the problem. They do sell a bucket on the end of an expendable poll which is also good for this situation but that's not an option either. Cutting the limb isn't an option either for the swarm this high.

So we assumed the swarm catchers would work. Unfortunately they didn't and once again my hives are supporting the feral bee population (wild hives). They took off for the woods somewhere.

It turns out that swarm catching products such as Lemon Grass Oil slowly lose their potency. All our chemicals were from last year. But boy when these things are fresh do they work great! Last year we couldn't keep the swarms out of the thing! So these products do work but only when they're fresh.