Sunday, July 1, 2012

Operation Swarm Containment

Swarm Cloud

This morning as we were getting ready to head out the door, B called me out to the orchard.  There was a giant mass of bees swarming.  My first thought was panic.  Oh no is one of our hives vacating??  I checked them on my way there and they were both fine, humming along as normal.  Then, when I got to B's location it was amazing.  A funnel cloud shape of thousands, I think tens of thousands of bees all swarming up to a branch 30 feet above us.  What an amazing sight!  And the sound was hypnotic. ( you can take a listen by playing the video at the end of the post.)


Swarm Settled
So since it's a day and a half until we leave town and we've been racing around with laundry, currant harvest and cordial making, farm bag distribution, dress picking up, and soccer, of course we now must also attempt to capture a wild swarm to add to our homestead.  It's just how we roll.

We called our friendly beekeeper (the one who made our hives) and he gave us some directions on capturing it.  We did a little bit more research via the Google, then as soon as we got home set about operation swarm containment.

slowly bringing down branch

Since the swarm decided to settle very high up, B figured out which branch, and decided that with the combination of a partial cut and a pulley system we should be able to (hopefully) gently bring the branch down then shake the swarm into a box.

Bee Halo

The key when trying to capture the swarm is to make sure that you get the queen.  Wherever the queen goes, the rest will follow.  The initial attempt jarred the branch a little more than we would have liked, but with a portion of the bees down and the branch lower we were able to watch and see where the bees congregated (i.e. queen).

Pully to hold branch down

B then rigged the branch so that the pulley had it bowed low enough that he could approach it with a box and a large stick,  give the branch a couple of good knocks, and the bees would fall into the box.  Spraying them with a little sugar water calms them and so he did that just prior to the transfer.

Falling

This went quite well though he felt that the queen was still with a small cluster on the tree branch.  At this point he could cut this small branch and add it directly into the box.

Bees Falling

Within 15 minutes all of the bees were in the box!  So operation swarm containment was quite successful.  Now B is driving about an hour from here to pick up another hive, then at dusk, we'll transfer the lot into it.

Completed Capture

Bees are amazing creatures.  Through all of this, even with thousands of bees flying around B, they didn't attack him.  He did get one sting, but not during the capture, only because when he lidded the box, one bee got squished and stung him on his gloved finger then.   During the whole process I was anywhere from 10 feet to right up close (depending on what stage) and never had any concern.  I am also thankful that our bee keeper resource is so generous as to have B go to his house while he's not home and retrieve what we need to get these guys situated.  He had even offered to come out and help us late tonight after he gets back from his family activities.  Such generosity warms the heart.

I can say we have checked one off of the bucket list.  Hmmm, now since bees swarm only a short distance from their previous hive, we may next have to search our hollow trees for some honey!!

Check out the video to get a feel for the amazing swarm symphony!

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