This past Wednesday I noticed a flurry of bees outside and was amazed at how many there were and how loud they had become. Having a beehive, I have seen them fly and buzz around without giving me much worry, but I was in a bit of state of panic when I saw this. I was not scared, just knew that something was up. I went to my physiology class and lab and came back home and saw this:
It was my first time seeing a swarm up close and personal. This amazing group of bees were just all huddled up together on a branch like a bunch of grapes. I knew then that my current hive had split as they most likely outgrew their space. A part of me felt guilty. Why, I don’t know, but I did even though knowing that this was something that bees do all of the time. So, I tried to act fast and send an e-mail to the few beekeepers that I knew. I was surprised when I did not hear a response for several hours.
I knew time was of the essence and was becoming desperate. I knew that they would hold on to their current home through the evening and I would have the morning to figure something out. I called the Alameda Beekeeper’s Association and had the opportunity to speak with a beekeeper who offered me some good advice and said that I would be able to catch the swarm. I have protective gear and all, but never considered that it was something I could do.
So, I gathered all of what I needed and went into my neighbor’s yard with a ladder and a bucket. It was truly a sight to see, both comically and awe-inspiring. There is tiny Tia on a ladder with a bucket in one hand and the other hand trying to reach for the branch that the bees were clinging to. As soon as I gave the first shake, the bunch of grapes just fell and began to buzz and fly all around me. Just hearing them drop into the bucket and be removed from their somewhat protected area, was truly incredible. In a way, it was a rush and a huge shot of adrenaline shot through me. Never have I been surrounded by so many bees. It was good to know that when they swarm, they are so full of honey and tired, that they would not be aggressive or try to defend their home or honey since they had neither.
With the first attempt, I thought that I had a majority of them off the branch and they would all stay in the box. Not true. Second attempt, several hours later, I continued to shake the branch and had almost all of the bees off the branch and either in the bucket or on the ground. I had a pretty easy enough time to transfer them into the box. I looked for the queen, as the bees would not stay if the queen was not there. I thought she was there and then attempted to move them, which was my second mistake. My first was that I did not have a nuc or the right container for them so they were having an easy enough time escaping. My second mistake was that I should have moved them at night where they would all be inside the box and not flying around.
So, after slowly losing the bees that I had spent most of the day trying to catch, I just had to let them go. They had by this time migrated to another tree that was much higher. I was not going to take another risk and so conceded to let go of this swarm. I felt I learned a lot from the experience so that I could be better prepared next spring when this may happen again and ensure I have all of the right equipment available. But I also have resigned myself to the fact that even if there is something that I want so desperately and worked so hard for, you sometimes just have to let it go.
- The buzz: Honeybees are swarming, and that’s a good thing (mercurynews.com)
- Swarming of the Bees – It is That Time of Year Again! (thegardendiaries.wordpress.com)
- Beekeeping 101 (slog.thestranger.com)