Last Thursday, May 27, my 09 nuc hive swarmed. A swarm is when the hive splits – the colony produces a new queen and then half the bees and the older queen leave the hive to find a new home, while the new queen, brood, and the other half of the bees stay behind. It’s nature’s way of producing more colonies to perpetuate the honey bee.
When the swarm leaves the hive, it usually doesn’t go too far before finding a “resting place”. While the swarm is resting, so to speak, scout bees go out looking for a place to live, which might be a hollowed tree. When a place is found, the scout bee(s) communicate its location to the swarm and off they go. Once there, they will build comb, the queen will begin to lay eggs again, and the colony will grow.
I pretty much knew that the 09 nuc was going to swarm because it was overloaded with bees, and last year, the same hive had a history of producing swarms. Since early May I would always walk around the yard and check in the trees for swarms.
On Thursday I did the same walk and looked around the yard and did not see a thing. About 5pm, I went out to check the garden and as I was climbing through the field fence, I heard a sudden buzzing, like a small plane would sound if it was warming up in the yard. I looked over and the cloud of bees that I had expected to swarm was in the air and circling around like a developing tornado.
I went inside and got my camera. The video is not the best as my camera is more or less a camera with a “video option”. There are some blurry zooms, but I think it will show you what it is to stand in the center of a bee swarm. Understand that I am only panning a bit to my left and to my front into the tree. The bees you see are only 90 degrees of bees! What the video shows in this small window is going on around me 360 degrees! It really is like standing in the middle of a tornado as its walls of bees rotate around me!
The next video is the swarm as it came to rest about 30 minutes after the swarming began.
My son Allen got the ladder and the truck and pulled up underneath the branch on which the swarm was resting. It was approximately 15’ off the ground. I wanted to hive this swarm as soon as possible, before any of the scouts had a chance of leading the swarm away.
First we smoked the 09 nuc hive and opened it up. We took out a frame of brood – comb with eggs, larvae, and capped larvae. We brushed off the bees and put the brood frame in a new super. A super is the box part of the hive. We did this because I have read that if you put brood in the new super before you put the swarm in, the swarm will stay, and not leave for another location. Old time beekeeper’s say “bees won’t leave brood”. I then added a few more frames to the super so that the swarm had something to build new comb on.
We set the ladder in the pickup bed and I climbed up with the super. I grabbed the branch that the bees were on and gave it a quick jerk which dislodged the bees and sent the clump falling into the super! At that time a few of the bees got riled up and began to sting me. I climbed down and walked away with about 30 bees on me (out of maybe 10,000). After I got them shook off (yes, I got a few stings- maybe 10 or 15), I went back and brought the super off the ladder and put it on the tail gate and let the bees climb in. Later, after a few hours, they settled down, I put on the cover and I moved my new hive to a location about 30 feet from its mother hive! Today they are pretty happy and have begun to build comb and make a new home.
And most all my stings are all healed by now! Those stings will be forgotten when I am eating honey this fall!