Saturday, 20 May 2017

First swarm of the year

Oh dear.  I was determined not to have any swarms this year after half dozen or more last year but the bees had other ideas.  This one came from a colony I split two weeks ago and was from the half with all the brood but without the original queen.  Just over a week ago I reduced the queen cells from 22 to one (or so I thought) but I must have missed one.  When I see photos of swarms they are always hanging on a single branch, waiting to be cut off and dropped straight into a box but mine are never like that.  This one was spread along several branches of a spindle shrub in my neighbour's garden, about 3m from the hive.

Minutes after it emerged there was a heavy downpour so I didn't think they would be off in hurry, giving me time for a cup of tea.  Here is a small group of bees after the rain.

The only way to get the bees off was to pick them up in handfuls.  I took a nuc box and put them straight in, as many as I could get off the branches.

Within minutes they were fanning at the hole in the crown board

and a few at the entrance.

I collected more stragglers from the bush and there was more fanning, suggesting that the queen was in the box.

Once I was optimistic that I had the queen I put on the roof and left them to settle.

An hour later there were no bees in the bush and a few flying from the nuc entrance.  I went back at dusk and brought them home.  This wasn't the biggest swarm and must have been lead by a virgin queen.  I'll let them settle down but I'll probably unite them back to where they came from in a few weeks.  My neighbour Gill is very obliging and after last year she is quite used to me turning up on her doorstep dressed in a bee suit.  Last year I didn't take any honey and so had none to give her but she'll be top of my list when I get some this year.


  1. Glad you recovered your swarm. I only saw one swarm here, many years ago. When it took off, it roared like an airplane lifting off.

    1. You are right about the sound Florence. I heard them go before I saw them. This morning I looked in the hive they came from and found another lot of sealed queen cells. One queen was just emerging so I left her in charge and removed all the others. Virgin queens emerged from two further cells so I took them to our association meeting this afternoon and they both found new homes. I think the mistake I made was reducing to one queen cell while there were still young larvae - the bees were still able to make more. Next time I'll be a bit more patient. The swarm bees seem quite happy in their box.