Sunday, May 2, 2010

Caught One of My Own Swarms

So, I was tooling around getting ready to feed the emus at about 10:30 AM on Saturday when I heard an unusual amount of buzzing overhead. Turns out that a swarm must have issued from one of my own hives, and they'd taken up residence in a pepper tree immediately outside the beeyard. Can you spot 'em?

First, a little perspective. Then a close-up:

I grabbed a ladder, a cardboard box, and a nuc (smaller, five-frame hive) plus five frames of new foundation. I keep supplies like this on hand, as Foghorn Leghorn used to say, "For just such an emergency." Anyway, climbed up, held the box under the ball o' bees, and shook. Most of them dropped in a glump down into the box, and I immediately shook them into the nuc. There were a lot of them!

I watched for awhile, and started to slide the top closed. I had to go back up the ladder twice to shake in smaller groups; some of them kept re-congregating at the original swarm location. I kept getting them and shaking them into the nuc, closing the top a little each time...

It was at that point I got really lucky and actually spotted the queen scooting down between the frames! So, I quickly shut them up and took them to their new home... really just about 150 yards uphill at my other beeyard. Here they are:

They immediately started "fanning," a behavior that shows they are marking this as their new home. They stick their abdomens up and release a pheremone from their Nasonov gland (named after the famous beekeeper, Joe Nasonov, who used to mark his territory in much the same way after a plate of refries)and fan it into the air. Other bees fly around orienting themselves visually and with the help of the pheremone, and before you know it, the new hive is up and running! You can spot the fanning behavior here, if you look closely:

It was a busy weekend. On Friday evening I went over to the Community Garden and switched out the nuc for a single "deep" hive, as they were starting to get crowded. I set them next to each other, like this:

I checked the frames as I moved them (briefly, it was really windy) and they were full of capped brood, so another population explosion is on the way in a week or so. Not a lot of capped honey, so they're living hand-to-mouth right now, but they'll catch up once they've got a larger number of foragers. Here they are, all ensconsed in their spacious new digs:

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