Yesterday we got the call that every beekeeper hates to hear. "I'm here near the bees and there's a tornado of bees going around." The hive was swarming!
Sometimes the hive gets too full, sometimes it gets too hot in the hive, sometimes they just decide it's time to go. It's hard to always no why bees swarm, but it's natures way of dividing and expanding the hive. Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. (from Wikipedia). You can usually tell when bees are going to swarm when you start seeing elongated queen cells at the bottoms of your brood frames.
Our friend, Alvie, from Wooleylot Farm, has allowed us to set up a bee yard near his farm in Odin He was working his fields when he observed the tornado of bees phenomenon. After his call, I thought, "Well, I'll go down and take a look." Sometimes you can find the swarm in its clump and start a new hive with it. I didn't have a lot of hope because often the swarm goes deep into the forests or it can be up in a tree where I can't reach it.
I got to the bee yard and after some looking around what did I see?
An almost textbook perfect swarm for catching!
They were in a solid clump, they were low enough to reach, they weren't intertwined into a bunch of tree branches, and it was a branch from which I could easily shake them off.
I set my box under the swarm and give the branch a good solid shake. Then I put the lid on the box with a small gap. It was awesome to see the bees start calling each other by "fanning". This is where they stand outside the entrance of the box or hive and fan their wings to send out the queen's scent and tell the other bees, "Here we are, come here!" I smoked the tree branch well to get the hive and queen scent from it and watched until almost all the bees were either in the box or on the outside of the box. Then, using puffs of smoke, I encouraged them all to enter the box and sealed it shut.
I set up the bees in a hive in the bee yard by my house and when I looked at them today, they were hard at work making it their home. Success!