OH NO! Not a swarm! Really??

Monday. I was busy trying to catch up with all the bed preparation for the vegetables now the weather is nice, plus I had to make a trip all the way to Bethany CT to Gentle Giant Farms to pick up some materials they had ordered for me, so I decided to wait until Tuesday to check the bees. This plan was overturned when I rushed out into the garage to jump in the car to get the girls from school... and I found scouting bees in the garage. The garage door had been standing open all afternoon, and there were about 20 very purposeful bees checking out all the empty beehives I have stacked on the shelves there. The minute I saw them I thought "swarm"! I turned around, put on my boots, stepped out again and marched straight off to the beehives. And sure enough, there was a swarm in the branches behind the beehives. Darn!!

  Monday May 9th.  I tried to take a picture of the scout bees in our garage, looking for a new home, but they are too small to see. Can you see any?

Monday May 9th. I tried to take a picture of the scout bees in our garage, looking for a new home, but they are too small to see. Can you see any?

  Monday May 9th.  The dark shape attached to the branch is a mass of bees, or a swarm.

Monday May 9th. The dark shape attached to the branch is a mass of bees, or a swarm.

 Close up of the swarm. They form a tight ball by clustering together and clinging to each other with their feet.

Close up of the swarm. They form a tight ball by clustering together and clinging to each other with their feet.

When a swarm happens, the old queen leaves with a large number of the colony of bees in the hive, and they find a branch (usually) to hang out on for a while. A new queen that emerged from a queen cell (that Jennifer missed, apparently) stays behind with the rest of the colony. This means, I still have bees living in the hive, but less than I had before they swarmed. This is how bees "reproduce" to make new colonies. Good for the bees, but bad for the beekeeper - it means I probably will not get any honey from them this year since there are not as many worker bees. Not good!

The swarming bees then send out some bee scouts to fly around everywhere trying to find a good place for the swarm to move into. They return to the swarm and transfer the information they have gathered. Many scouts leave and return for several hours. The bees have a way of determining which of the various places found sounds like the best bet, and once the decision is made, they all leave in swarm to this new location. With bees checking out my empty hives in our garage, were they planning to move in there??

Unfortunately for them, I had to close the garage door and leave to go pick up the girls from school. I had to pick Norman up from work too, because he had decided to ride his bike to work on this nice sunny day after so much rain, and while his bike sat in his office, it mysteriously sprang a leak and he didn't have a repair kit. I told him the bad news about the swarm on our way home. "Oh no!" he said. "Now what?"

When we got home, I went and checked - swarm still there - then got out my two bee books and read up on swarms. There was a lot of complicated instructions on how to climb up to the branch where the swarm is hanging and cut it off, but warnings about not falling off the ladder while you are doing so, and that the average time they stayed in a swarm was a few hours, though some can be there for 3 days or so if they can't find a good home. So better move fast!

I took a ladder out there as it didn't seem that high off the ground. "Don't attempt this if the swarm is more than 10' off the ground" one book warned. When I got the ladder out there, it suddenly seemed much higher off the ground than I thought. Maybe 10 feet.

 You can see the swarm, about 10 or more feet off the ground, with Norman trying to get a good picture. Ladder clearly too short.

You can see the swarm, about 10 or more feet off the ground, with Norman trying to get a good picture. Ladder clearly too short.

OK, I thought, I can't do this by myself! I need help! I called Adam "Adam?" "YEP?" "Guess what? I've got a swarm!" "HA HA, YOU AND EVERY OTHER BEEKEEPER IN CT!" "Really?" "YEP! THIS IS THE WORST YEAR FOR SWARMS THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN!" It turned out I'd caught him on his cell just as he was climbing out of his car at one of his aviaries, checking out all the swarms he was having. First nice day after a week of rain and those bees got busy! He gave me the name of an experienced beekeeper nearer to me who might be able to help me collect the swarm and put it in one of my empty hives. I called him, and also called some friends who had just started keeping bees, and were under the supervision of an experienced beekeeper. Neither answered, so all I could do was leave messages.

OK, I thought, this is not worth stressing about. If I lose the swarm, I lose it. I nearly killed myself the week before last, trying to prevent a swarm, it had happened anyway, there is only so much you can do. No one available to help right now, maybe the swarm will stick around for a little while, so I guess I will take the girls to their gymnastics class and hope for the best.

When I got home after the gymnastics class, it was 7:00pm and the swarm was gone! No!! I knew as soon as I walked into our garage and those scouts were gone. I walked over to the aviary, and sure enough, no swarm. They had not moved into my hives in the garage (phew!), but I had put an empty hive out in the apiary in the hope the scouts would find it and move in on their own. But that was empty too. So who knows where they ended up. But now there will be no one to give them sugar syrup or mite treatments, so it is doubtful they will survive (according to Adam).

I don't know which hive swarmed. I have this feeling it might be Hive 2 since that was the one with the 13 queen cells, but I will have to open it up and check (whether there are fewer bees). At least I felt better that it hadn't just happened to me! Even Adam had swarms.

That evening we heard back from our friends who knew the beekeeper with his contact info, and we heard back from the beekeeper Adam had recommended the next day. Too late. Sigh.

 Swarm gone!

Swarm gone!