Archive for 2011 Class for beginner beekeeping in Southwest Florida

Catching a Swarm of Bees

Posted in Bees & Hummingbirds with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by PickMeYard

I caught a swarm of bees a few days ago.  It’s strange, but I think the bees called me over to them somehow.  They beckoned me with their minds.  I was unloading my truck and decided to stop what I was doing to go look at our macadamia nut tree.  I walked around it and smelled the wonderful blooms on it.  Then I noticed something dark up in the tree… a cluster of honeybees.

Blooms on our macadamia nut tree.

A swarm of bees in our tree. They’re surrounding their queen.

I believe the swarm is from one of my other hives, but I’m not sure.  They probably outgrew their box and made themselves a new queen since their boxes are healthy and full of brood and honey.  They could have gathered a group together with a new queen and took off to find a new home.  I should have split the hive myself to prevent them from doing this because they were crowded, but I didn’t.  This beekeeping practice is called a split.  Honeybees will make pointy honeycomb on the bottom of the foundation in their boxes when they’ve made up their minds to leave.  These are called swarm cells.  A beekeeper can pull them off to deter the bees from leaving, but it doesn’t always work.  There are several methods of swarm prevention.

I didn’t have a box big enough to put the swarm in so I called a fellow beekeeper.  She gave me an empty bee box to put them in.  (Thanks, Penelope!) I threw on my beekeeping jacket with a veil and lit a smoker.  I held the box up with one hand under the swarm and cut the branch off with big garden sheers with the other hand.  This was tricky, but where there’s a will, there is a way.  The idea is to get the queen into the box so the bees will stay.  If the queen flies off, her swarm will go with her.  I was lucky that the swarm was on a low branch.

Penelope gave me a queen cage to put the queen in if I could catch her.  It would be set into the box between the foundation.  The toothpicks would help the cage stay between the foundation. There’s a little bit of marshmallow stuffed into the end.  The honeybees would eat through the marshmallow over a couple of days to let their queen out.  This process would up the odds that the honeybees would stay in their new box. 

A queen cage.

I couldn’t catch the queen.  I couldn’t even find her.  The bees started getting frustrated with me since I was taking so long so I just gently put the top on their box and walked away.  Within a few minutes, every single bee had made its way into the box.

Every one of these bees went into the box because their queen was in there.

It’s been a few days now and the honey bees are still in their box.  I opened them up and they’re making beautiful white comb.  My instincts tell me they’re not going anywhere and have found their new home. 

New home for honeybee swarm.

Soon I will re-queen them to keep them gentle.  This is an important step for beekeeping in Southwest Florida.  The practice of capturing a swarm of honeybees is not supported in Southwest Florida because we’re in Africanized honey bee territory.  I felt very comfortable catching my swarm though and I didn’t have a nervous bone in my body.  I really wanted that swarm.  Beekeepers develop emotional attachments to their honeybees.

The Beekeepers Association of Southwest Florida is holding another class for beginning beekeeping on June 17, 2011.  Click here for more information about them.  Click here for their blog.

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