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by Vermont Beekeepers

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Our First Swarm

Swarm removal services

The telephone, in my office rang at two o’clock in the afternoon. “Can you come home right now for a few minutes?” It was my husband Scott, and I asked, “How come?”. I feared that he or dad had been injured while working on the basement remodel. He said, “The bees are outside of their hive, and they’re up in the air buzzing around. I think they may be swarming.” I said, “Sure I’ll be right over”.

When I arrived in our backyard, before I could even see the black cloud of bees in the sky, I could hear them buzzing like never before. We had an orchestra in our own backyard; however, the music being played, was a little frightening, not knowing what the honeybees would do next. It appeared that only our “W” hive was in this cloud. “Y” and “B” hives seemed to be going about their business as usual, foragers coming and going into their hives.


Scott and I scanned the surrounding tree lines, but we didn’t see a cluster of bees yet, so I suggested that we call one of our beekeeping mentors. It was my hope that one of them would be home in the middle of the afternoon, and that they could provide some swarm counseling over the telephone.

We were thankful that our first try was successful. Bill Mares answered the telephone, and Scott explained what was happening. Bill confirmed that it certainly was a swarm in action. Scott and I walked back into the apiary with Scott carrying the cordless telephone, still speaking with Bill. As Bill described to Scott what should be occurring, almost in synchronization, the bees started to latch onto a tree limb about twenty-five feet above the ground. Within minutes there were no more honeybees swirling around in the air. Instead, when we looked up into our tree, we could see a cluster of honeybees in what looked like the shape of a starfish.

Scott also telephoned the company that we had purchased this nuc from, and the owner gave us a few more pointers on how to determine if the the remaining bees in the hive, that didn't go with the swarm, had a new queen. I telephoned work, and let my co-worker Laura know that I’d be a while longer before returning. Then Scott and I suited up and went to inspect the hive that had just undergone supersedure.

We inspected all ten frames but could not identify a queen. The bees seemed very agitated, and I thought for certain that this would be the day that I received my first bee sting as a beekeeper. During this inspection we saw four queen cells and one had an opening, which lead us to believe that a new queen had emerged. To avoid further irritating the colony we put the hive back together and redirected our focus to the swarm up in the tree.

Scott’s inclination was to leave the swarm alone because we had too much else going on with all the home renovations that we were working on. However, my heart was calling out to save the swarm. I felt like our two-year journey into the world beekeeping just a little more effort. By now I had read numerous books on beekeeping, and swarms had come up in each book. I felt we could lasso this cluster back into our bee-yard. Therefore, we discussed methods, the two that he had been told about by telephone, and one of the ones that I had read about in the books. We ended up using a combination of both.

The fist obstacle to overcome was the height of the swarm. We didn’t have a tall enough ladder to get us high enough to the branch sot that we could bend it down and shake it into a container. We also didn’t have an extra brood box just hanging around. So this is how two newbie hobbies beekeepers capture its swarm.

We put a brood frame along with several other new frames into a clear plastic crate, which has a folding lid. We put a 12’ ladder under the limb housing the swarm. I climbed to the very last run on the ladder and put the crate on my head, while Scott used his limb-cutting pole to grab the branch and shake the hive into the crate. Upon the first shake, I could feel a big thud hit the crate, and then the sounds of hundreds of bees invaded my eardrums. Scott shook the branch again and this time along with honey bees falling into the crate hundreds landed on me, and leftovers fell onto Scott. I think he shook the limb two more times and then we decided that I should climb down so that we could inspect what we had captured.

There were honeybees buzzing everywhere, but I was pleased to see a good number of them in the plastic crate. When we looked up into the limb there was still a small cluster remaining. Which left us with the unanswered question, was the queen with us or was she still up in the tree. I suggested that we set the crate down and give it some time to settle and if the queen was there, eventually all the bees on us and in the air, not to mention the small cluster up in the tree, would find there way to the crate. We spent about ten minutes brushing the bees off from us, and I was wrong. I didn’t receive my first sting today.

I returned to work and redirected my energies until it was time to leave and go home, so that I could inspect what had happened to the swarm over the last couple of hours. There were no remaining bees up in the tree, and the crate had activity (bees coming and going). I did not disturb it by opening it to see if it looked like more bees had gathered on the inside, but all seemed rather calm. Hence tomorrow we will pick up a new brood box and transfer the frames into the box. We’ll inspect both colonies in about one week. Hive “W” we'll look to see if a infant queen is maturing, and the new colony, yet to be named, to see if we can find the queen. Based on our inspections, we’ll either leave them alone or get new queens ordered.

This was a very exciting day for Scott and I. We have learned a lot, like the old adage, “you can ask three beekeepers the same question and receive back four answers! Which was the case with each person Scott talked to today, they had different advice, and in the end, we merged their advice into what worked for us. My only regret is that we didn’t have the swarm captured on videotaped. I would have enjoyed seeing myself upright on that ladder, with the crate on my head, while thousands of bees plummeted into my makeshift “bee bonnet” and also clung to my body almost covering every square inch of my white beekeeping attire.








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Heavenly Honey Apiary™
Monkton, Vermont USA

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Last Updated December 27, 2013