Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hiving My First Swarm

     I am not a person who has a simple life.  If there is a tricky way for something to happen - that's the way it happens for me.  Thus is was with my first swarm.  Monday I had a meeting about a play I am designing, then I took my youngest to the dentist to have four teeth extracted, then I came home and got him settled on the couch, expecting to grab a shower, a bite to eat, and then head off to the first read of a different show I am also designing.  The dogs were going crazy in the back yard,  and as I let them in I noticed a swarm of bees on the side of a black storage container which had been on our patio all winter.
last fall's leaves still adorning the box top

bees bulging off both sides of the box
The  container had several frames of capped honey, which we were keeping outside as it was getting warmer, and we thought we might be able to harvest it (both of our hives died off last year).
     Now I have a hive fully set up on the farm, into which I installed a package of bees earlier this season.  But, Central NY weather being as fickle as it is, the warm winter and mild spring  turned foul the day the bees were installed.  The temp dropped twenty degrees and the rain froze.  Never have I had to have a tarp  set up over the hive to keep out sleet while installing a package of bees!  Even with a hive top feeder in place, they died, as it had gotten too cold for them to break cluster to get to the feeder, so they starved...sadness.
tarp to keep the weather out - you can see all the mud
so sluggish due to the cold

not long for this world
      So Monday, it looked like Nature was trying to make up for the nasty trick she'd played by giving me this swarm.  I ran inside and opened YouTube to learn how to capture a swarm.  The videos all showed  nice tight clusters of bees hanging off of mailboxes or tree branches - all places where they could easily be knocked into a box to be installed easily in your hive.  HA! No, these were all over both sides of the  storage box, and when I opened it I discovered that they were all over the capped honey frames as well.  Not an easy capture.
inside the storage box
    To top it off, all my equipment was at the farm.  My husband drove down and grabbed a couple deep hive bodies, a queen excluder, my bee brush, a smoker,  and my hive tools.  I had thrown on an old long sleeved shirt of his, and my bee pants - white carpenters pants - lots of pockets - very convenient.  I did not know how long they would stay, so I did not take the time to change my shoes, so I was wearing sandals, and the mice had chewed on my bee net, and piddled in the hat, so I just tied my hair in a pony tail.
    So with a whisk broom - and later my bee brush - I swept many hundreds of bees into an old box and dumped them unceremoniously into the hive with several empty frames in it.
knocking the bees into a priority mail box - thanks USPS!
 I gently removed the frames that were full of honey, and covered in bees, from the box and installed them in the hive.  I only got one sting in the process - I think I must have accidentally put my index finger on one of the girls,  so she got the tip of my finger.  All in all, no worries.
nearly finished, the girls flying around  the hive

in their new home!
     We decided to leave the hive where it was for a day or so, so any stragglers could find the rest of the group.  Unfortunately, it was situated by our back door, and was not too far from our neighbor's porch, so we left him a warning message and a promise to move them in a couple of days.  Then,  at midnight two days later, we moved them to the farm.  Why midnight you ask?  Well most of the bees, except for a few guard bees near the entrance, would be in the hive,  and my husband was in rehearsal, so I had to wait for his return home.  It was a gorgeous night - cool with a full moon - perfect for hauling thousands of bees to their new home!
my partner in midnight bee transfers!
     They have been on the farm for about three days, and early this week I will open the hive to check on the queen's activity, as well as to add a super so we might get some honey from this hive this year. So, even though it was less than simple,and I was a bit sweaty and smoky for my first rehearsal,  I can now say I have captured a swarm and hived them, and at last there are bees on Rivendell Farm!