The Gathering Swarm

Over the memorial day weekend, close friends of ours had a swarm of bees come to rest in a maple tree in their front yard. The timing was almost perfect–our first hive is well-established and healthy, and we had an empty top-bar hive waiting for tenants; the only issue was that I was alone when the call came in.

So, packing up the recovery gear and leaving a message on the kitchen counter, I took off to collect our first swarm. The swarm had fortuitously gathered itself into a tight cluster, hanging from a branch about 10 feet off the ground. Our swarm catcher is a 5 gallon water bottle with the bottom cut out and the bottom end of a paint roller glued into the top. An extendable paint pole screws into the paint roller end, and the whole contraption can be raised and lowered as needed. To collect the swarm, I position the bottle underneath the cluster of bees, and push it up until it strikes the branch upon which they’ve gathered, knocking them off and into the bottle. I then quickly bring the bees down and dump them–gently, but quickly–into a specially-suited box. The bees that I couldn’t capture reassembled on the branch, and so I had to repeat the tap and tip process several times.

By this time, I wasn’t the only one gathering the stragglers. Backup help had arrived, and the bees themselves had begun to call to their wayward compatriots using their scent. In fact, it was leftover scent that kept attracting the straggler bees back to the tree branch, necessitating a lengthy process to de-scent the branch using a smoker.

Soon enough, nearly all of the swarm had been gathered up, and we brought them home. The next morning, we put them into their new hive and–for now–we’re giving them some extra food (sugar water) mixed with a special herb tea. So far, the new hive appears to be thriving.


About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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