First Bee Swarm

Today we collected a swarm of bees, our little family of three.

A friend said bees swarmed up into a tree on her property, maybe 25′ up. Did we want to come get them?

We have never collected a swarm of bees, but Arielle and I have been going to Preservation Beekeeping Council meetings here in Camas, learning natural ways we can help the bees. When we lived in Bend, Lily got bees from Glory Bee in Eugene, so we have a bit of bee-ing experience, but mostly a lot of studying or doing the wrong things (our Bend bees froze in winter- see Mothering Bees post on how to convert those hives to insulated, happy ones).

How to keep your bees from freezing in winter, or boiling in summer…

We got our hives ready back in April- one double Langstroth conversion and one hollowed out log hive on a stump, and we waited. Swarms season is a bit slow this year, we hear.

There was a swarm up in La Center this week, about 45 min. north of us, but we couldn’t go when the call came in. We’re on a “swarm list” so we get a text when someone calls the P. Bee Council and whoever can get there goes and rescues the bees, and the people who want the bees taken away, unharmed.

Since we’ve never collected a swarm before, we wanted to go watch someone do it at least once, maybe help with it and learn something.

swarm 20′ up a tree

But doing is learning. So today we just went and winged it. John pulled his truck in under the tree and put an extension ladder in the back, leaning it against the cab, then strapping it down. He’s a retired fire captain so he knows ladders and is super safety conscious. I braced my feet against the base of the strapped down ladder to help steady it–but don’t try this at home!

It was a somewhat precarious set-up, but it worked well enough for him to trim a few branches, then shake the main branch. A big clump of bees fell into the crate he held beneath the branch.

When bees swarm, they are already drunk on honey, and have been going after the queen. Everybody is slap happy, and non-aggressive, or so I’ve heard. Climbing on ladders in the back of a truck is the probably the most dangerous part of this venture.

John brought the crate down and set it in the grass nearby. At this point we weren’t sure we had the queen. We watched as more and more bees came over to climb in. Some bees hung out on the edge and started fanning their wings and wiggling their behinds- that’s the sign for the others to come- the Queen is here!

the bees congregated on one side… and tipped the box over! see bees on the ground?

So we left the crate there for a few hours and when we came back, ahead of an impending rain storm, two big clumps of bees hung on the side. As we approached a wind blew and knocked the whole thing over, dumping out a bunch of bees. Darn!

But John just scooped them up with his gloved hands and shook them back in. We let them settle again for a bit, then picked up the crate and lightly wrapped it in a sheet, put it in our truck and drove home.

its a lot of bees!

At home we dumped the bees into their new log home, a two-story structure we carved out from a fallen tree, then set on top of a stump. It is near a stream/water source and lots of blackberry and blueberry bushes, and all sorts of other plants bees love.

Arielle brushes them in

Last time I looked bees were happily exploring their new neighborhood. And our little family is buzzing with excitement over the new additions.

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