“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”
My dad is my beekeeping partner and between our apiaries we have 5 hives.
So he leaves a message on my answering machine yesterday evening…”Hey I got a swarm call, give me a call back when you get home. I’ll tell you about it, and we’ll go get it tomorrow.” I got home late that evening and when I called him back he said the bees were on the 10th hole at the Northshore Golf Course, clustered on a branch lying on the ground. Lying on the ground…easy as pie as far as swam calls go, and he’d already taking a box out there, shaken most of the bees in, and left it there overnight for any remaining bees to go in on their own. By early morning, before they start flying, it should be as simple as screening off the entrance and loading it into the pickup. “Wanna go, I’ll pick you up at 8am?” Sweet! No ladders, no precarious situation, no muss, no fuss! I even debated the need to bring my veil but, as I say, always be prepared, so I did.
So we get there, and he drives over to the 10th hole and points to some trees, “It’s right over there.” Well I’m not seeing it, no box, no bees flying, just golfers and a whole lotta grass. Then he realizes it’s not there. I get out and start looking around, wondering if someone moved it, maybe stole it? Hive theft is not unheard of. He calls his contact, the head of grounds maintenance, who doesn’t know where it went. We flag a ‘marshall in a red shirt’…no, he didn’t see it. ‘Marshall’ then flags a couple of groundskeepers…”Oh, sure, it was HUGE!” as he indicates the size of a football. “We threw it in the dumpster.”
“You WHAT??” I was incredulous that anyone would pick up an obvious piece of equipment, that obviously belonged to someone, that had been located strategically, now containing the bees that had once been a HUGE mass laying on the grass, and without asking enough questions, proceed to throw it into a dumpster. But then that’s just me. I had visions of busted up parts and pieces with a whole lotta angry bees flying around. Good thing I brought my veil.
Poor bees. I carefully righted the box, replaced most of the empty frames, then began to slowly lift the frames containing the bee clusters, as I looked for the queen. I found her, put that frame in the box, then the rest, and put on the lid. Soon the box began to hum as the bees inside calmed, warmed and signaled to the others still outside, “come this way, here’s home”. Several were still flying and crawling around the debris so we waited and in a little while many more went in. Herding bees is a little like herding cats, so in a situation like that there is no way to get them all. Time to screen it and lift it out. I console myself that maybe those left will go back to the colony they swarmed from.
It’s in my yard now and we fed it syrup. It’s a small swarm, no doubt an ‘after swarm’. Swarming is the bee colony’s natural way to divide when they get crowded. This time of year, the colony it came from has probably already swarmed earlier but still needed more room. So a new queen was made and off they go. She’s small too, so she’s probably not mated yet. Many beekeepers wouldn’t bother with such a swarm, it’s too small to build up enough to survive a winter here. But dad and I go for them all, big or small if we can reach them. And this one came to us just when we needed a queen. My queen died last week. We need to check to see if she laid new eggs before she died, so the colony could make a new one, but the cold rainy weather has postponed an inspection. If there is no queen in the making, we’ll join this small swarm to my hive and all should be well again…providing my hive accepts the new queen and she mates successfully.