A Swarm!


I got my local beekeeping club newsletter in my email, this very morning. It said, “After an extended period of rain, there’s a good chance of a swarm on this first sunny warm day.” Also, we recently re-queened our weakest hive. Even though we removed the reigning queen, the hive must have contained queen cells. Two queens can’t live in one hive, so the hive splits and it’s a swarm!

Which is what we got today!

Pretty exciting, in restrospect…

I had just returned home from doing some errands. Bill called asking me to hurry down to the farm with the bee suits and gloves, so I grabbed them and the camera and drove over. I was pulling on my bee coat and hood and gloves as I ran up to the beehives. When I got there, Michael was already up a large step ladder in the middle of a grove of small cedars. The swarm was tens of thousands of bees dripping from a branch high up above the top of the ladder, balled around the queen. He had a saw and some loppers, and on the ground nearby, he and Bill had prepared a box with frames to put the swarm in.

So, I’m dressed in shorts but I’m wearing my full bee jacket and hood, with gloves, holding the ladder on decidedly sloped ground so Michael won’t tip over. I can just picture me and my son in a heap under a swarm of angry bees so I yell “hang on! I’ll get help!” I let go and ran for more hands. Bill and Rich came out and Rich helped me hold the ladder.

Meanwhile, Michael sawed away at a bee-covered branch right over our heads as Rich joked about getting hit by a bee bomb. Michael needed three hands, and asked me to climb up the ladder to help. I started up. Then, he said he wanted me to climb out into the branches of the tree next to him to hold the branch. This is when I hit my limit. “No! There’s no way! I don’t have the courage to do that! I clambered back down the ladder. Bill stepped in, no bee gear on, and climbed the ladder. Rich and I held on to keep him steady. Michael cut the branch and slowly lowered it onto the top of the ladder. He clipped a side branch which was also laden with bees, and at first the branch was held to the rest of the swarm just by the mass of bees. Finally, it broke free, and suddenly, bees rained down on Rich’s bare head like Rice Krispies. He’s saying, “Oh God, they’re all over my head! They’re all over me!” But he stayed cool long enough for Michael to hand the bee-dripping branch off to Bill who balanced it there. Michael crashed down from his perch in the tree and came around the ladder and gracefully took the branch from his father. He swung it around toward the box as Rich ran off to take off his shirt where bees had taken refuge. I recovered my camera from where I put it under the tree.

I got no pictures of the actual swarm in the tree, there was no good angle on it. Not to mention I was holding the ladder, but I took this shot afterward to give you an idea of where it was. The swarm was a good six feet higher than the top of this step ladder. 

I got some shots of Michael shaking the branch over the box. The bees seemed to realize that this was shelter. The rest of the swarm began flying toward the box where they smelled their queen. They put a temporary cover on the box, propped up with a sticks. Bees were swarming everywhere!

High fives all around! Nobody stung! And best of all, we now have a free fourth hive! How awesome is this!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “A Swarm!

  1. nutsfortreasure

    OMG you need to carry a tape recorder, that alone would have been NUTS to listen too(on YOU TUBE) though you describe it pretty good.

    Glad you are all safe and sound and captured another hive full, you will be in the $$$ now.

    Last year I had 200 on me and they were all stinging me now I clean my yard before the warm temps come.

    Mike you are my hero Bill and Rich too, you Maggie are So into THIS Farming thing lol and the men JUST FOLLOW your lead. Calm heads prevailed for sure in a frantic moment!

    • maggiemehaffey

      Ha ha! A You Tube video might have captured some choice words! We were TERRIFIED! But knew we had to stay cool. These bees are very peaceful, especially when they don’t have a home, they’re kind of discombobulated… However, if you get one in your shirt and start fumbling at it, you will get a sting. They key is ignoring any tickles. One sting is all it takes because it gives off a scent, and then more stings will ensue. We didn’t even take the time to light the smoker!!

      • nutsfortreasure

        Eunice here, lol Yes after I was stung last year I would not HOLD THE LADDER, lol. I love my little $300 camera Ron got me 5 years ago, it has video, man I could have made you all STARS well not like you aren’t ALREADY. Loved this post Keeping it Real down on a Farm! HUGS

      • maggiemehaffey

        😉

  2. Desiree

    OUR HEROS!!!

    • maggiemehaffey

      I was not much of a hero. I was a chickensh*t. I did stay at the ladder and am proud of that, but those three men are my heroes! They really kept their cool!

  3. Marcia Farina

    Totally awesome!!!

  4. capturing a swarm that high off the ground must be VERY difficult. I need to go out RIGHT NOW and put another super on my hives. We have not had your rain but if they are going to start swarming this early i had better give them more room. This was a great adventure for you all and how satisfying to see them all crawl down into their new home! if mine do swarm i am hoping they will swarm into the empty hive, that would solve all my problems.. c

    • maggiemehaffey

      They are swarming very early here. We’ve put supers on and everything…We had a swarm last year on that same hive. They didn’t cooperate this well, they flew off to the top of a tree, and disappeared into the forest forever. This was the first time they actually were within reach (somewhat!) Michael was determined to catch them and we got caught up in his determination. I would never have attempted it without him. We were very lucky it went that smoothly.

      • nutsfortreasure

        I still think Micheal resides there for a reason but I see him as the HERO, he may have saved the HARVEST 🙂 We need bees to be happy workers who want to chill close to the plants. We can make him a Bee Whisperer 🙂

  5. Wow! That was quite an experience. Last month, I helped my sister install two hives. I thought that was a big deal. I can’t image being that close to all those swarming bees and no one got stung. Great Story!

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