Sunday morning, the day before Memorial Day, I received a message from my friend Brad that there was a swarm in my area. He wondered if I wanted it and I replied “Not really,” but I suggested someone who might. I threw in the comment “If you plan to get it, I’ll come with you.” Turns out, no one answered their phones and so Brad came to pick me up and off we went. With swarm calls, you have to move quickly because the bees are sending out scouts to find a new home and you don’t want them to find a home before you get there!
It wasn’t too far from my place, about 5 minutes. Brad has done this a few times already so he had a well-worn cardboard nuc, some old frames, a tall ladder, a tree pruner on a pole (I’m sure there’s a name for them) and a large cloth tarp.
We get to the house and the homeowner, who was (thankfully) very nice, was outside waiting. He told us that he came home into this cloud of bees and as he got out of the car they started to cluster on a branch on his cherry tree. He was fascinated, worried (of course) that they would sting him or his family; some of his comments and questions made it clear he actually knew a little about honey bees. We reassured him that swarms are generally very docile because there is no hive or resources to protect.
We set up quickly; the houses are clustered pretty closely together and the front yard had quite a slope. The homeowner marvelously owned an extension ladder and an extension tree pruner! We laid down the very generous tarp under the bees and extended the ladder so that it was only a foot or so away from the cluster on the same branch. We decided I would climb the ladder and hold the cardboard nuc under the cluster while Brad shook the branch with the tree pruner to dislodge the bees. We trimmed a few branches to make a better clearing for the nuc and to keep the swarm from “hanging up” on extra branches as they fell.
I climbed up there (swarm was maybe 15′ high?) and watched that branch sway with every weightshift on the ladder. I held the nuc under the swarm and Brad gave a good, hard shake and almost all of them instantly dropped in. There were 2 empty frames and the bees instantly covered them with more just piled in. I held the nuc for a minute to make sure they weren’t going back to the branch and I saw bees lining the edges of the nuc box and fanning their Nasanov glands! We got the queen!
I climbed down the ladder very slowly and carefully and handed the nuc to Brad part-way down. He set it down gently on the tarp and we watched as bees seemed to actually float down to the nuc. You could see scout bees returning to where they last left the swarm only to be drawn to the nuc by the fanning of the “this is home” scent. It was SO COOL to watch. A few bees were still clustered on the branch and Brad used a bee brush to brush them off and they promptly joined the nuc.
The homeowner informed us that there was a swarm 2 houses down a day or two ago. And THAT homeowner said he was calling an exterminator. The nice homeowner told him to call beekeepers instead “because those are honey bees.” Smart man. As we waited for the returning scouts to join their fellow bees, we asked the homeowner to show us where the other swarm was. We had a suspicion it was the same group of bees.
Lo and behold, there they were. Maybe a hundred bees with a couple of tiny combs built out. They had incorporated leaves into the wax so at first it looked like green mold. As I looked for a queen, I didn’t see her. But the cells had eggs in them. We decided that these bees and the swarm bees were the same ones. They were only 40-50′ away from each other and we also decided that the swarm high-tailed it away from the “exterminator” homeowner to the “they’re honey bees” homeowner on principle. Smart!
Actually, what very likely happened was that the “exterminator” homeowner gave the branch a swift shake and the bees flew off to cluster somewhere else and left their sisters behind. So we trimmed that branch too and added the bees and eggs to the nuc.
When we left there were only 8 or so bees flying around so we decided to close the nuc up and wrap up the swarm catch.
Brad installed them at home and by last account they were being bees. 🙂