Another Swarm

July 23, 2012 · 12 comments

Around 5 PM last night, Henry and I were hanging out in the driveway talking when he suddenly stopped and started looking around. It didn’t take but a minute for him to locate small swarm of honeybees. I had been hearing a buzzing in my subconscious, too, but had ignored it because there’s always a lot of buzzing at our place from the 60+ hives scattered around the property.

At first, the bees were all in the air. They were flying around in one area for five minutes or so until they began to land and cluster on a small branch about 25 feet up the trunk of an oak tree. Henry ran off and grabbed his pole saw (with an extension) and hung a bucket with a frame of drawn comb doused in sugar syrup on the end of it. He positioned the bucket squarely under the growing ball of bees and forcefully rammed the branch with the bucket to jostle them loose. Some bees fell into the bucket and a bunch took flight but stayed nearby. When the cluster began to form again, Henry knocked the branch with the bucket a second time. The queen must have fallen in the box at that point because the bees started to regroup in and on the bucket instead of on the branch.

After waiting a minute or so, he lowered the bucket and its contents.

This was not a big swarm, maybe the size of a cantaloupe when balled up. It most likely came from one of Henry’s breeding nucs, which had multiple queen cells hatch at the same time.

Once the swarm was out of the tree and mostly in/on the bucket, Henry started looking for the queen.

He spotted her easily and nabbed her (unharmed) in a queen catcher which looks like a glorified hair clip thingy but is functionally a little cage (above left). He put the frame from the bucket into a nuc box.

He then tried to coax her out of the queen catcher and into a small queen cage. (I love this photo, by the way. Not sure why.)

Apparently she didn’t really want to come out, so a ton of bees started to settle on Henry’s hand while he waited for the queen to exit the queen catcher.

Finally she made it safely into the queen cage.

He let the cage sit on top of the nuc box for a while, so that the rest of the hive could begin orienting to their new home.

He plugged the cage with a candy cap (a specially designed stopper made out of a gob of sugary fondant), so the queen won’t be able to get out until the workers chew their way through to her. That should only take a couple days, and by that time, they will have set up shop permanently in the new box.

Henry wedged the queen cage between two frames in the nuc box.

Then he put the lid on and left them alone.

Neither Henry or I was stung once during this operation even though we both had many bees landing on us, and he had his bare fingers working in the hive. Just another testament to the docile nature of swarming bees.

Sorry to anyone who’s getting bored with all the recent bee-centric posts. I’ve got other subjects coming up, but the bees keep me intrigued.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Baby Aunt Sue July 23, 2012 at 6:33 am

yep, he’s a bee whisperer alright.


Riley July 23, 2012 at 8:04 am

Oh, I really like reading about the bees! Please keep writing! :)


ga447 July 23, 2012 at 11:29 am

I am not bored at all, you are one of my top bloggers, I anticipate your site every time. I am amazed by the bees. One of my favorite honey is with orange.


dixiebelle July 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

The bees fascinate me, please give us all the bee posts you like! I like that photo too, the bees and Henry as one with nature.

We are getting Warre beehives in Spring (September/ October here in Australia). What do you guys think about warre or top bar ‘natural’ beekeeping? Any thoughts?


Henry July 24, 2012 at 8:54 am

Warre is a great system for backyard beekeeping but wouldn’t work commercially for many reasons. I prefer to modify standard Langstroth gear to mimic what I observe bees doing in natural cavities. Are you getting Ligurians? They were one of Brother Adam’s favorite races of bees and supposedly they are available in Australia from Kangaroo Island. From looking at these pictures it seems like they make an awful lot of burr and brace comb, maybe not a bad thing in a Warre hive.


dixiebelle July 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Thank you for your reply!


jacki July 24, 2012 at 10:57 am

I’m not bored AT ALL by your bee posts! They are completely fascinating.


Sabrina on Harris Road July 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm

We LOVE the bee posts! With the new swarm from Henry here on the farm now, it is constant conversation!


Paul July 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Bees intrigue me as well, please don’t stop!


Shann Allen July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

Love the bees!!!


Jen Larsen July 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Love this post, especially the photos of his hands and the queen cage. Good job! Would love to meet Henry someday. Tell him to come to one of our Linn-Benton Beekeepers Association meeting, or better yet, you should write something about him for our newsletter, people would love it! (I do the newsletter and am always looking for new contributors).

:) Jen


Alivia August 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I love all the stories you tell about bee’s! I also have a question that maybe you can answer. I recently got some honey that the gentleman referred to as brood honey. What does this mean? It is a fairly dark honey with a great flavor (which I can’t pinpoint the flower/s). Thank you in advance!



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