Swarm on a tree trunk
On a sunny hot June early afternoon I received a call that a #swarm was gathered on a tree trunk, I duly called the property owners to glean more information.
The swarm arrived around 1230 hours that day – Tick
They are spread over the trunk of a tree in the garden, this prompted the mental checklist for #bees not conveniently hanging from a branch, but spread across a tree trunk, in need of coercing into a wooden box!
We ascertained the swarm was at waist to chest height and that the swarm was over two feet in length, top to bottom (Sounds a lot but if they were spread thinly it would be a small swarm), needless to say this was a good size swarm.
This type of collection generally spans two separate visits, one to initiate collection, the second to simply collect late evening once the bees are settled in for the night, then transport them to their new location or staging area.
This entire process could be achieved in one visit, provided you are happy to hang around for hours, given most collections are fairly local, it is generally better to collect in two stages.
The approach would be to pull out all the stops, in terms of making the collection box a #honey bee super magnet.
In all honesty, I do like to stack the odds in my favour when it comes to swarm collection (and established colony collection).
The swarm collection box was pre-loaded with a mix of new frames with new foundation, used (Clean) frames, with traces of propolis, a frame with clean honeycomb held with rubber bands (Not yet used to store any honey or pollen).
To make it a five star collection box I also added a small amount of bee lure, be aware that too much will put them off, no really, it does!
To keep them distracted during collection I rolled a 50:50 sugar syrup solution over the foundation and also ensured their were traces around the frames, also on the collection box inner cover.
All components (Frames, inner cover, lid etc) are best prepared and kept at hand, in order of need, a few feet away, this ensures that you do not need to rush and are prepared for a smooth, controlled and gentle collection, this approach respects the fact a swarm of bees minding their own business are about to be physically moved by a giant in a baby-grow (In the bees world…..That’s me by the way), the bees seem to appreciate the care taken, by not attempting to sting me.
Above you will see the first swathe of bees being swept gently from the tree trunk, care must be taken not to squash or smear any bees against the tree, I find a gentle side to side motion of the frame which is carefully held against the tree trunk as I move upwards from the lower end of the swarm works well, then when I have enough bees on the frame, with one hand I gently separate the co-joined, daisy chained bees.
Without moving the frame into the vertical, the frame is then place in the box at an angle, holding the clump of bees gently against the box’s back wall so they do not fall off the frame, this is repeated until I have worked from the bottom of the swarm on the trunk, to the top of the remaining swarm (This is the important area as the queen is likely to be in the last group), I also use my hands to collect any clumps of bees on the ground, if needed.
How did we get on?
Below is a time-lapse snapshot, the bees placed in the box stayed put, the remaining bees on the tree trunk moved down the trunk level with the swarm box, this happened within minutes so was observed easily, after which they moved onto and subsequently into the collection box, good as gold.
As a side note! Knowing the next day was going to be a scorcher, in excess of 33 degrees celsius, and that the collection box was going to be in direct sunlight that following afternoon, before leaving I placed a large sheet of insulation on top of the collection box (The silver sheet in the pictures above), all the preparation would amount to little, should the direct sunlight make them so uncomfortable, they decide to move on.
Remember! At this juncture the bees have not taken up permanent residence, they may still move on.
Once collected and moved to the apiary they are left for three days prior to moving them to a new hive, this allows them to exhaust any food they are carrying.
If I attempted to collect them, move them, then rehouse them quickly in to a new hive they might get fed up with all the disturbance and move on, leaving them for three days and they will be oriented to the the location of the collection box, so much so, watch what happens if you do not align the new beehive entrance to where the collection box entrance was (Within a few centimetres)…….but that’s another story.
The swarm was collected the following evening just prior to sunset, perfect.