It was a beautiful warm day on Wednesday, and I noticed an awful lot of bees flying around in my carport where I store all my hive equipment. I am checking the apiary twice a day for swarms at the moment and on my sweep back round, I saw this:
I presume it came from the hive nearest, which houses the Oak Tree bees that we collected from Market Wood. If so, this is a valuable swarm as she is a mature mated queen and I understand from Paul that that original colony may not have survived the winter – in which case this is the queen from that tree colony. I had nadired this hive a week or so ago to give them more room but they have clearly decided that space wasn’t the issue! Remember that we don’t understand the precise mechanisms for swarming, despite all the books, so we just need to be vigilant and trust the bees’ decision.
Wrapped swarms aren’t as easy to collect as a beautifully suspended cluster but they were low to the ground which was a bonus. I have a full video of the collection here on my Patreon so if you would like to keep up with all the activity and what-to-do-when, do head over and join the Wayward Bee virtual apiary.
This is a large prime swarm and I was concerned that the skep wasn’t big enough for them, so popped a nuc box underneath:
Come the evening, I wrapped the sheet around them and took them over to the far end of the apiary to hive them. If you’re relocating bees in the same area, it’s important to do so that same evening, and put some brash or sticks in front to the entrance to oblige the bees to check in on their new location; we are effectively confusing them in order that they recalibrate their ‘home button’ to the new hive.
It was really cooling down so I gently shook them in rather than walking them up a ramp, and the following morning they were orienting and buzzing around. They weren’t looking wholly settled (see here) but I am hoping that they will decide to stay. They can abscond anything up to 3-4 days later which is why some put a queen excluder above the floor so the queen can’t get out, but I’ve always felt that must be stressful to the colony, and besides it knocks off lots of pollen at the one time you want them to be giving them every opportunity to provision the hive.
I checked the inspection board this morning and there are lots of gorgeous new wax flakes in the centre of the board. They have one frame of part-drawn foundation, and the rest are starter strips or lolly sticks.
I know they weren’t out for long, and will have stocked up on honey before they left, and it is glorious weather with masses of forage, so the perfect time for them to swarm. I will be keeping an eye out for a cast in a day or two as they usually go 3 days later.