Catching a Swarm of Honeybees

While the rest of Georgia is sneezing and rubbing red, itchy eyes, the honeybee is at the height of blissful activity!

Our cold, lingering winter caused a late pollen flow and it came on with a vengeance.  Yesterday, I took a Homestead Tour group into our bee yard.  I explained to the children how to watch for the pollen sacs on the bee’s legs.  Their excited, “I see it, I see it!!” was wonderful.  One little girl turned and looked at me, “I’m allergic to that pollen.”

Because the bee activity is almost at a frenzy this season, the potential for swarming has increased.

It’s important to keep a watch on your colonies to make sure they have enough empty frames to keep them busy.  With the increase in brood by the queen, the space in the hive must be checked constantly.   When the outside frames of the super are being worked on, it’s time to add another super.

Take out the brood frames and cut queen cells and you’ll buy yourself some more time.  Unfortunately, when a colony has made up its mind to swarm, it’s only a matter of time and there’s very little that will keep them from going.

I was told to walk through the bee yard around 10am every day and watch my hives – I would be able to tell if the bees were going to choose that day to leave.  If the bees are thinking of swarming that day, you would more than likely see “bearding.”  “Bearding” is when the bees hang out on and over the edge of the front porch to the hive, like they do in the summer when it’s really hot.  This isn’t a fool proof sign but it’s a pretty good indicator.

It’s a good idea to keep a nuc on hand for catching swarms.  If you don’t have that available, a cardboard box will also work temporarily.

A swarm is very eager to find another residence quickly.  The bees are fairly docile at this point and easy to catch if you can get close enough to the ball of bees.

To catch a swarm, place the nuc box underneath the swarm of bees and hit the branch, causing the “ball” to fall into the box.   The queen will more than likely be in the middle of this ball and when she’s in the box, the rest will follow.  Place the top on and leave the nuc box on the ground.  The rest of the bees will be drawn to the nuc by the queen’s pheromones and they will march right on inside.  Place 5 frames in the nuc box right away so the bees will know they’ve arrived at home sweet home!

You can transfer the bees at that point to a new hive body or wait a couple of days if you need to get a new brood box ready.

Best part about catching a swarm???  Free bees!

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