I woke this morning around 3am to the sound of rain. I wondered how rain might impact the intentions of my naughty bees. I call them naughty but fully realize this is a normal occurrence in the life of bees. Did they forget that they were package bees, and that package bees do not typically swarm their first year, so I read. Either they missed the memo or I missed the memo. At 4am I started coffee and began Googling about swarms, swarms and rain, etc. I read that rain could be in my favor regarding the prospect of retrieving them, that damp bees may fall in a larger group leaving behind the driest who may fly. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband this since he was elected to climb the 28 foot ladder and reach up another 5 ft with a gathering container yet to be constructed.
My mentor has a bucket on a long pole that she recently used to retrieve her swarm in her backyard. When I described this gathering container to my husband expressed his grave concern about being 25 ft up on a ladder, holding a long pole with a heavy bucket on the end in one hand and a bee brush in the other hand. What a baby! He had an extension pole for painting and an old elongated aluminum fishing net and I had reusable grocery bags from Hannaford so….he cut the net off the fishing net and I cut apart two bags and using duct tape we created a light-weight bee gathering container. Oh and the only duct tape I had was black with fluorescent skulls and crossbones…bees behave (hey I’m a middle school teacher and kids love duct tape and skulls). My mentor arrived at 7 am. with several bee suits, a couple of mediums with frames for them to draw out, and a honey super with honey keep them happy. Sounds like we’re rewarding them with honey for such bad bee-havior 🙂
With the ladder tied securely to a tree limb, a tarp beneath to collect any falling bees, a hive pieced together with spare equipment my mentor brought, suits and gloves on…my husband ascended the ladder, scooped some bees, came down the ladder enough to hand the gathering container to me to dump into the hive. While I waited to be handed another container of bees, my mentor searched for the queen in the flurry of lots and lots of very active bees. Ok, they were irritated, their plan was thwarted. She spotted the queen as I readied to dump the second bag of wandering bees. Success! 95% of the bees gathered plus the queen. My husband was only stung twice, on the same ankle.
Here are a few pictures of the swarm in the tree (I know it is hard to see in this shot), the retrieval set-up, and their new temporary home.