52 Homesteading Skills in One Year Project #29: Catching a swarm of bees
This was NOT supposed to be one of the 52 skills I learned this year. My bees were NOT supposed to try and run away from home.
And so I wasn’t prepared when, much to my horror and dismay, I discovered a bee swarm perched over 20 feet high in a Maple tree.
I’ll be honest. I completely panicked. I knew I needed help and I was extremely fortunate my uncle lived nearby.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have any more experience with a bee swarm than I did. But he wasn’t worried. He had watched a YouTube video explaining how to do it.
We were going to catch the bee swarm based on the instructions from a YouTube special.
I knew this wasn’t good. But what choice did I have? I had a bee swarm in my front yard and I needed to get them in a hive fast before they moved on to their unknown-to-me destination and I lost them – and my investment.
So I thanked my uncle for his help (I owe you BIG TIME) and we hatched up a plan.
Are you ready for this highly thought out, well developed strategy?
Here it goes: My uncle was going to climb a ladder to cut the branch the bees were resting on. I was to stay on the ground and catch the branch.
That’s right. I was going to catch a falling bee swarm.
This just proves how badly I wanted to get my bees back. And yes, I did have doubts about our plan and yes, I reeeaaaally wished I was the one cutting the branch. But hey, beekeeping is not for the faint of heart. As they say – Your passion better burn brighter than your fears.
So I thanked my lucky stars that I had invested in the full body bee suit and mentally prepared myself for the worst.
The good news is I caught the branch.
The bads news is there was an accident mid-air and about 90 per cent of the bees fell to the ground in a giant, buzzing puddle. Only a few, well attached stragglers remained on the branch I was holding.
Of course, this didn’t happen on the YouTube video. So we resorted to improvisation.
My uncle had an empty hive he had brought over. We tipped it on its side next to the bees prepared to brush, shovel or scoop them inside.
But we didn’t have to do any of that. As if by magic, they all started to make their way into the hive.
You may now call me “The Bee Whisperer”. I’m thinking of starting a swarm catching sideline business. What do you think?
One week has now passed since the swarming incident and I am happy to report those rogue bees have decided to stay put in their new hive. I am told that after you catch a bee swarm, they can still decide to leave the hive up until they have mature brood (baby bees). This can take a week so it’s best not to disturb the hive before then.
I am also now much more educated on bee swarms thanks to some late night research. Let me now fill you in on some of the blanks in my story.
Why did the bees swarm?
It is most likely because I wasn’t quick enough to give them another box. The bees probably felt like they were running out of room and decided to solve the problem by swarming.
What happens when the bees swarm?
Half of your bees leave the hive with the queen. The remaining bees raise a new queen and stay put in the hive.
Tip: Swarms will often take frequent, short rests on their way to their new home because the queen bee is a poor flyer, according to Beekeeping Like a Girl. In fact, she is put on a diet leading up to swarm day.
Why do you think the bee swarm went willingly into the hive?
Although I wish I had some kind of bee superpower it is mostly likely because the queen had fallen into the box and the other bees were following her. As long as you catch the queen, you’ve caught the whole swarm. So if you catch a bee swarm and they all fly out of the hive, it is because you didn’t get the queen. Keep trying.
Why didn’t the bees attack you?
Bee swarms are almost always docile. Why? I’m not sure. I’ve read it is because they are so full of honey stores, they can’t be bothered. You know how you feel after second helpings of Christmas dinner? I’ve also heard it is because they have nothing (brood, honey, home) to defend.
So now that I’ve successfully caught a bee swarm, if you happen to need one removed from your area, you can give me a call and I’ll help. I’ll climb up the ladder and cut the branch they are perched on and you can stay on the ground and catch them. Sound good?
Note: The uncle in this story is not my biological uncle, but my childhood best friend’s uncle. However, I’ve called him uncle ever since I can remember. Today, he is also my brave and helpful neighbour who keeps bees and enjoys watching YouTube videos.