Shortly after catching my first ever swarm, I received a call from one of the tenders of the swarm hotline that there was a swarm in someone’s backyard and it was mine if I wanted it. I had just come home from work and was planning on looking in on my hives, but quickly jumped in the truck and went over to take a look. The swarm was hanging just off the ground in a bush – an easy capture.
It was about 2 feet long and I’d guess it was about 5-7 pounds (15-20,000) of bees. Apparently, there were some hives a couple of yards away, so I’m guessing they came from there. They were beautiful golden Italians.
I had a mini (13 bar) Hardison top bar hive that I built my first year which had never been used except to store old comb, so I took that over to put the bees into. I put down my tarp and then placed the hive under the cluster. I gave the branch a good shake and most of the bees dropped down into the hive. It’s always a guess as to whether the queen went in when you do the first shake. There were a bunch of bees that missed, so I could only hope that she was in the bunch that went inside. After a while, it was evident that the bees were marching into the hive, so I was sure the queen was in there.
I had a good time talking to the people who lived at this house, explaining what I was doing and what swarming was all about. I left the hive there until nightfall, then went back after dark to bring it home. Most of the bees had crawled into the hive – there were only a handful hanging out of the entrance.
My neighbor, Laura, down the street had an empty Langstroth hive. Her bees had died a couple of years ago and she wanted to try her hand at top bar beeekeeping. So, I told her I’d trade her a top bar for the Lang, and we put the swarm in the mini hive in her back yard until we could build a full sized hive. Because the swarm was so large, they were pretty cramped in the mini hive, so it was important to move them as soon as possible.
We bought some beetle-killed pine down at the local lumber yard and one Sunday, we put together a new Hardison style top bar hive (like BnB1 & BnB2). Laura has a 3 year-old grandson, so we put a window in the hive so he can watch the bees. (always good to get the younger crowd interested in beekeeping!) It was a couple of weeks before we got everything together and painted and then it was time to move the bees into their new digs.
When I captured the swarm, I only had one empty bar of comb for them. About a week later, I added an empty comb and a full honeycomb from BnB2 to help them out. When we opened the hive to do the switch, they had built out all but 2 bars in the hive – quite an impressive feat. There was lots of capped brood and we found the queen on one of the combs. In looking at the picture now, her wings look pretty tattered – maybe even clipped.
The process of moving from one hive to another is pretty simple – you just move the combs one by one, keeping them in the same order.
They had built some comb on the back end of the mini hive and there were a lot of bees that didn’t want to move into the new hive.
I tried to shake most of them into the new hive, but then just put the mini hive in front of the new hive and figured that they would eventually migrate to the new one.
When we got all the bars into the new hive, there were a bunch of bees at the back end of the combs fanning their wings to spread the hive pheromone.
We closed up the rest of the hive with empty bars and swapped it into the place of the mini hive. I put a couple of empty bars in the brood nest too, to give them room to build out some more comb.
I still needed to make a lid for the hive, but got that on the next weekend. For this hive, I used a metal lid for the first time. In the past, I’ve been worried about cutting and bending the metal (and cutting myself in the process). HB over at the Backyard Beehive Blog had a link to some pictures of Marty Hardison making one with a jig and I figured I could replicate that. And my neighbor, Gary, had a saw blade for cutting metal. I did it a little differently than Marty, but in the end it was all easier that I thought (and I didn’t cut myself!)
Now Laura has bees again and I have some spare Langstroth equipment for the next swarm!