Swarm season is upon us. As hives become crowded and new queens are raised, honey bees will split their colony with a swarm. About 50-60% of bees will leave the original colony with the new queen in search of more room. Often, a swarm takes up residence in tree holes or roof eaves and becomes feral. We were fortunate this week to see the cluster of bees from one of our hives waiting on the fruit tree for the scouts to return with news of a suitable place to relocate. We were able to capture the queen and her entourage, as Scott is doing in the picture here, and not lose them and their wonderful honey-making and pollinating contribution.
It was a bit unnerving to draw near the swarm as we collected them into the bucket. The sound of thousands of bees buzzing evokes primal instincts to run and swat. The key is to relocate the queen and the workers will follow.
Here they are, pictured right, getting settled into the new hive we hurriedly prepared for them. You can see the bucket turned upside down on top of the hive box. After several hours, we removed the bucket and placed a top on the box. We left everything nearby so that stragglers would find their way to the queen by nightfall.
It will be awhile before they build up comb and begin honey production, so our honey crop will take a hit this year because of the hive split. But we didn't lose the bees, we have a 5th hive to replace the one we lost last year to AFB and look forward to an even better crop next year.