This day held promise, kids went to camp for a few hours and I had free time to do anything I wanted. I did NOT want to spend the day trying to get a swarm of bees out of our big huge spruce tree. But that's what I did because I went from being a haver of bees to a keeper of bees today. And all our baby chicks escaped to boot.
I was rounding up baby chicks when I heard this chilling bee sound, the worst bee sound ever. Like 10,000 bees super pissed off. I wandered over to the bee hives and noticed one was extremely active and bees were pouring out of it. I knew right away those bleeping bleep bees were swarming. I could just feel it. I stayed and watched because there was nothing to do at this point but watch and HOPE they landed someplace close by. About 20 minutes later they were done leaving the hive and had settled about 20 feet up a tree.
Why do bees swarm? It's the natural occurrence of things, it's how a hive expands and makes a new one. In nature though, not in my hives, I did not want my bees to swarm. This can be prevented by regular hive checks to look for and kill queen cells which hold new queens. New queens can leave the hive to mate, come back and lure away half of your hive to build a new hive somewhere else. They will swarm someplace close to the old hive while scouts go look for a new place to live. This is the time to catch them and put the swarm back in the hive. I have been performing regular hive checks, I must have missed some new queen cells last time as they were being formed. It takes about 10 days for a new queen to hatch out. I was 10 days out from my last hive check and apparently missed a forming queen cell. A queen cell is very long, way bigger that a regular worker bee cell but not when they are first formed. After today I will be performing a hive check every 7 days to make NOTHING ever slips by again.
So what did I do? More like what did WE do, my husband saved the day. We borrowed a 24 foot ladder which put us right below the swarm. I climbed up, took a bucket on a rope up with me to drop the branch and swarm into. I hemmed and hawed for a long time and finally sawed the branch off and truly pissed off the bees. I'd love to say I made a good clean cut but alas the swarm and branch were so heavy the branch broke and the bees went NUTS. I made a hasty exit and got stung for my troubles. I managed to NOT fall off the ladder or drop the saw on my husband's head and made it down safely.
We let the bees rest for a bit and I made another run up the ladder with loppers to finish the job. The tree was the biggest limiting factor of the whole operation and it made it impossible to fully open the loppers and nip the remaining bit of branch. I tried but again the bees were pissed, I'd have to say SUPER PISSED at this point.
I came back down, sweating buckets, swearing and really wondering if we would ever get them down. My husband who has remained out of bee keeping until now thought he should give it a go. Up he went while I held the ladder, about 2 seconds later he had that thing down and in the bucket. He fairly scampered down while I held the rope tied to the bucket out of his way. We lowered the bucket down with the rope and bam there they were. Slightly cranky but for the most part in the bucket and ready to go in the hive. I carried the bucket over pulled a few frames out and dropped the branch and everything right in the hive.
I'll go back in a few day and see what it all looks like, but for now I'm just glad to have my bees back where they belong. Now because there may or may not be another queen in the hive I lay some paper between the two brood boxes. Apparently the bees will eventually eat through it and the whole hive will live happily with two resident queens. The other option is that the new queen may have killed the old one already and we have one queen in the hive. For now I don't know what's in there, except a whole lotta blood, sweat and tears.