oly moly. Yesterday, May 19, I captured my first swarm! I think. I noticed lots and lots of things flying around like crazy near the lilacs, and I thought it was a bunch of small insects. But our grandson said, “No Pop, they look like bees to me!”
After a while, they started to congregate on the lilac bush and I could see they were a swarm. Oh my. I’ve been waiting years to capture a swarm and there they were. Bit by bit, they bunched up just like in the pictures.
I’d been watching our colony and knew the bees were really crowded. I had been hoping they would swarm and I would be there to see it, and they would settle down where I could reach them, and we could actually increase our hive count. And then it happened. Yahoo.
Just drop them in a box
So, I gathered up a deep with frames saved from last fall’s hive, along with the bottom board from last winter’s dead out, and set it up under the lilac bush. I put an empty super on top of that. I got my orchard ladder out, suited up, and went to work. There were two swarm bodies. I snipped off the smaller, lower group and dropped it into the boxes. Got the loppers and cut off the branch holding the large swarm. I laid that puppy on top of the deep box frames. Amazing.
Then I pruned the excess branches, stuck the foliage into the entrance to form a restriction, added a lid and it was done. Please congratulate me for being a genius.
Easy until it all goes south
It was a little later that things started to go sideways. Just before dark, I suited up again and went to gather my “new” hive to move it to its permanent home. My genius status started to slip almost instantly. The first problem I hadn’t considered was that the hive was now situated in the grass on a slope, with the entrance facing downhill. When I started to “gather” it all up, it all started to fall apart.
The top slid halfway off. I caught that and slid it back on top. Then the super slid. Caught that and slid it back. The deep slid off the base. Caught that and put it back. Then all the parts started to slide here and there. By that point, bees were everywhere and they were mad!
Speaking in code
Bees were pelting my mask so hard it sounded like Morse code. Dit, dit, dot, dash. They were whacking me everywhere but I couldn’t quit. By now I knew I had to do this thing or I would end up killing them all. Not an option. Then they discovered that, in my haste, I hadn’t put on my rubber boots but kept my street shoes on, thinking this was going to be an easy peasy thing. Wrong.
Fire started in my left ankle. Oh my. Then they found my right ankle. My oh my. But I couldn’t stop now, I might kill them all. Any damage to the queen would be fatal to the whole swarm. They had to be moved and the wheels were coming off. God, I was in pain.
Finally got the whole mess moved and put in “their” place. It was like lava pouring over both ankles. The little darlings where crawling down into my shoes and up into my pants, bravely sacrificing their lives in order to try to kill me. I was on fire. The whole thing was a mess. It was one of those, “I wish I had never started, but I can’t stop now” things in life.
The aftermath wasn’t pretty
I stripped down going into the house, jumped into the tub and ran cold water over my poor inflamed feet. Dead and dying bees were scattered around the bathroom. Lois scooped them up one by one and gave them a decent funeral.
That was yesterday. After the night from hell, I am almost human. Elephant ankles, red and swollen to be sure. Fresh memories of agony and pain that will live forever.
The “new” hive sits in its assigned home, but nothing is lined up now. Poor squashed bees are sticking out here and there, grass and leaves are hanging out. A sad looking thing to be sure. But now, 24 hours later, there are bees coming and going as if nothing ever happened and I am one happy fool.
And one week later
Here we are almost a week later. The bees seem fine. I took off the super, put another deep on top, added an in-the-box feeder, gave them a gallon of food and they seem pretty happy. More feed tomorrow. Still lots of pollen going in. Warming up. The clover is in bloom and black berries just starting. We also have lots of lavender. The bumblers love that stuff.
As for me, lots of antihistamine and Cortisone. I keep thinking I will get smarter, but in my 7th decade, hope is fading. Life is an adventure and I still love bees, but I will never suit up with street shoes again. Just wanted to share my excitement.