The arrival of a swarm of bees

We had a small swarm of bees arrive at home on Sunday.  You can watch the short movie about it if you like, or read the blog…. it’s up to you!

One of our neighbours pointed this out to us on Monday evening.  In his words…  “A massive and deafening swarm of bees darkened the skies over Loughton and settled on our shed.” This was strange as we’d not noticed it ourselves but, true enough, a swarm had found its way into a stack of hive parts we had brought back home at the end of last season for cleaning and storage.  I had forgotten about this and had stupidly left a handful of old brood frames in there too that needed new foundation.  The swarm found this space totally irresistible.

The shed and hive boxes where the swarm of bees settled

A swarm of bees will rarely be as easy as this to collect and hive

I normally seal the bottoms and tops of these stacks of hive parts with unused crown boards and sheets of cardboard so as to avoid this very thing from happening – and to also avoid the dreaded wax moth from making home in there too.  However, at some point this stack had been moved and there as a little gap at the bottom that the bees obviously found to be the perfect entrance to what they thought was a perfectly good new home.  They were only beaten there by the wax month who had demolished most of the brood frames – but obviously not quite enough to determine the swarm!

We waited for the sun to go down so that most of the bees would be inside their temporary squat.  We then got our nuc box ready with a couple of frames of foundation and another of drawn out comb with some stores – which is the poorly constructed white thing on top of the cedar hive parts in the above picture.  This was originally a standard national nuc box but we have since moved over to 14×12 frames so I crudely extended the depth of it earlier in the season when I had to catch a swarm at the apiary. I never did get round to doing a proper job on it – so its yet another thing on my list of things to do.

Anyway, we started lifting out the old frames from the stack and, “bingo”, Tiff spotted the queen almost instantly.  Light in colour, but a good size, and the bees attending her were as calm as you get.  We took this frame (which was not badly wax month damaged as the others) and popped it straight in the nuc box.  We then proceeded to shake the bees off the other frames and spacer boards stored in the stack.

We then waited, and whilst the queen didn’t pop straight out again the remaining bees (now up in the air and crawling all over the remaining stack) seemed reluctant to go into the nuc.  So, up for a bit of experimentation, we laid out some sheets of white paper around the sides and leading up to the entrance of the nuc.  This seemed to work very well – and in no time there was a team of workers merrily fanning their queen’s pheromone at the entrance and beckoning in the remaining bees.

Bees arriving at the nuc entrance

Bees fanning the queen’s pheromone to the stragglers

You can see my lack of carpentry skills and poor materials have resulted in a gap on the right side of the nuc box which is obviously confusing some of the bees as they can detect the queen but can’t work out  how to get to her.  Who says bees are intelligent?

We’ll let them settle in for a day or so and then put a sugar syrup feed on as they will need some instant stores to draw out the new foundation.  I suspect this is a virgin queen by the size of the swarm (really only a ‘cast’) and the speed at which she was dashing about, so its going to take at least a couple of weeks to get her mated and settled in. Once that’s done we’ll install this colony into the vacant Hive 2 position.

It’s all go this beekeeping malarkey!

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