Only six days ago, we split our hive, putting a queen and a queen cell in the new hive. We had a couple of recently hatched queens and many queen cells still in the original hive. Whew, that should hold them, right? WRONG!
When I got home this afternoon, I suited up to take a peek in the new hive. In the bee yard, there was an unusually high level of activity outside the big hive: by unusual I mean it seemed as if every bee from the hive was outside! I watched for several minutes to see what all the hullaballoo was about. Then I noticed the cluster of bees in the tree. It was huge! My hive was swarming – AGAIN! Here’s a video of the swarm.
I made a batch of sugar syrup and put it in the freezer to cool it as quickly as possible. Then I went to work on the craziest beekeeping experiment so far: I was going to catch the swarm and add it to the small hive. But that meant carefully cutting it from the tree.
I sprayed them with the sugar syrup to calm them and keep them distracted. Next I cut the small stems and branches in the way. Finally, it was time to cut the branch on which they were suspended. But my clippers were to small to go through the branch! I carefully used the large loppers to cut partway through the branch, but when I removed the blade, the limb broke, bringing the swarm cluster crashing down. Of course, it missed the waiting box and fell inches away on the ground. I grabbed it up and put it in the box.
I had already prepared the hive body to receive the swarm by putting a sheet of unprinted newspaper between the hive body and an empty deep. The paper will make a temporary barrier, through which the bees will chew from both sides. By the time they chew through, they’ll be used to each other’s smell and make one happy hive. Well, that’s my hope anyway. I think we’ve thoroughly established that I’m working on a steep learning curve here and not entirely sure what I’m doing.
I also checked all the frames of the hive body to see if one of the queens was still there, but there was no sign of any. If there is, the queen buried in the midst of the swarm will duke it out with her.
So, the swarm is in the box, the hive body is ready. Now to get the swarm INTO the hive. I whomped the box on the ground to knock them to the bottom, and quickly dumped them into the hive. Next I had to get some frames in there without squishing the mass of bees on the bottom. A few more squirts of happy juice (sugar syrup), some careful sweeping of bees crawling on the outside back in, and I was ready to put the lid on. Of course, there’s no way to get ALL the bees in, but there are thousands anyway. Easily as many as my first box of bees, which was installed in my first hive just one year ago.
I went back to the landing spot under the tree and sifted through the bees still crawling around, carefully picking up one handful at a time to see if the queen had fallen, but I didn’t find her. Part of the swarm’s job is to keep her safe, so I’m fairly sure she was held in the ball of bees through the transfer from tree to ground to hive. If not, I still have a queen coming in a few weeks.
I hesitate to think of what can happen with these hives in the next few weeks!