(There is a serious question at the end of this post for seasoned Beekeepers, and any other that would like to chime in)
Two days ago I received a call from a beekeeper friend about a swarm that he couldn’t get to because of work. I told him that I would be glad to go after them. I didn’t realize what I was in for. It was described to me as chest high, and on the trunk of a tree. No problem. It should be an easy one.
The tree turned out to be a pine tree, the cluster was clinging tightly to the center trunk. It wasn’t a large tree, so I sat the hive down as close to the bottom as I could. I put an old comb, and a few drops of lemon grass oil in it. I first tried to get a few bees to climb on the old comb, that worked to a point. I could tell it wasn’t going to get the swarm to give up the tree. I walked around to the other side of the tree I put my hands above the swarm, and gave the tree as massive a shake as I could muster. I don’t think I dislodged even one bee. Now what do I do? In order to get a swarm to move from there clustered location on a tree, you need to get a few bees into the hive that start fanning their homing pheromone (nasonov). In this situation I didn’t have a bee vac (something that is now much higher on the build list). If I had, I probably wouldn’t have much to write about other than, “hey I caught another swarm”. In order to get some bees in the hive to start fanning, I put my gloves on, and just started putting them in by hand. My thought was that if I could get a few hundred in the hive, they’ll start fanning pheromone, all I would have to do is wait it out.
The picture above is what they looked like after about an hour of “waiting it out”. I just could not get them to give up that tree. After seeing that there was nearly no movement in the swarm. I gloved up again, and starting putting them in a handful at a time. I did manage to find the queen, and watch her march into the hive. That is when I knew I had the upper hand. I just kept shoveling them in a handful at a time. It was slow but it was working. Finally after about 3 to 3-1/2 hours I had the vast majority of the colony in the box. Dark was crawling its way across the bottom of the slopes, I had done all that I could do. There were maybe about a fist sized cluster still hanging on the tree, and with every handful I didn’t see much, if any head way being made. I closed them up, loaded them on the old bee truck. That was the end of swarm #2 for the season.
I did notice one other phenomenon that I hadn’t witnessed before. I’m wondering if any of you more seasoned beekeepers can tell me what is going on. In the picture below I noticed the white protrusion near where the bee houses her stinger.
There were quite a few bees with this. They had not stung, trust me after all of this I could tell the difference. I’d love to know in the comments what you all think it is.
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I would also like to give a huge thanks to Perfect North Slopes. If anyone wants to ski at a bee friendly resort next winter in south eastern IN. This really is the only place that it’s possible. It may not be the Aspen, but it’s as close as we can provide.