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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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