Tuesday mid-afternoon our son, Andrew, walked outside and heard a loud buzzing sound. I assured him it was the cunning clever carpenter bees, which live around our porch. They can be especially noisy when working. Upon further exploration, he discovered two swarms of honeybees in his faithful climbing tree. After excitedly exclaiming to us his findings, we all raced out to verify. To our surprise, there were two different clusters of bees adorning this tree as if they were Christmas ornaments hung in the wrong season!
I ran to the basement to get our bee suits so we could check our own hives. What was happening? Had we lost a hive? Did our hive split? Is this an entirely new swarm that just happened to find our farm? I had so many questions. Our first hive had been a weak colony. The queen barely made it through the winter. We last checked on her two weeks ago. We gave her some of the full frames that had comb from our other hive and hoped for the best. After checking it this day, we discovered that hive had completely died. We weren’t terribly surprised.
We moved along to the second hive. We found bees! This hive was at its max! We spent the next several minutes looking at the frames individually. We searched and searched for the queen. We never found her, but we still weren’t certain that she wasn’t there. We decided to capture the clusters and put them in the empty hive. By the time we returned to Andrew’s climbing tree, the two clusters had combined into one marvelous monstrous mass!
Using our van, we attached a trailer that has two tall ladders like things at the back. We moved it right under the hive. Martie climbed up to the swarm. He carefully, quietly, and swiftly placed a five-gallon bucket under this clump of honey bees. Using the other hand, he grabbed the branch and shook it quickly and aggressively. The bees fell with a thud into their temporary dwelling. I handed him the lid and we walked through the radiant pasture to the empty hive. I removed a few frames and the lid to the bucket. At the count of three, Martie dumped the bucket into the hive. Out fell thousands of bewildering bees! We carefully returned the frames and the lid.
After celebrating for a few minutes, we walked back to the house. The closer we got, the sound of the familiar buzz, increased. The bees that had not made it into the bucket had formed another small cluster! What was going on now? Had we not captured the queen? Surely there weren’t that many bees left behind. After consulting with a bee expert, we decided to capture the new cluster that had now decided to move up the tree a bit to avoid our shenanigans. This was going to require a different plan. Thankfully the farmer is incredibly innovative.
He retrieved his extra-long forty-foot ladder from the barn and placed it securely along the back of the van. With me bracing the bottom of the ladder, he climbed to the top and rescued the sneaky straggler swarm. We added those to the hive and did our final victory fist bump!
You can see the surprising swarm catch on our YouTube channel by clicking this link: Catching a swarm!