Swarm call… maybe…

A friend shared this photo with me just now. A swarm this size is known as a “prime swarm” – the first of the season from a colony that is really booming in numbers. They depart the old hive with the original queen to find a new place to setup a colony.

This prime swarm was spotted yesterday. Overall size was similar to a full sized rugby ball and would weight about 3kg.

This prime swarm was spotted yesterday. Overall size was similar to a full sized rugby ball and would weigh about 3kg.

A prime swarm is the best type to catch – the sheer number of bees, and the fact the queen is already well established laying means that they get off to the quickest start possible.

I’m waiting to hear if these bees are still available… fingers crossed!

Added 3 days later – sadly this lead didn’t amount to anything. Hopefully they are settled comfortably in a new home somewhere.

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Barham Swarm Update – 1

The new swarm out at Barham are taking their time settling in. With a few days of bad weather due and no wax yet being drawn out I decided to feed them some sugar syrup. There is a big nectar flow due in a few weeks when the lime trees flower, so I want to give them a boost before then.

I generally don’t like routine feeding of bees – they can become a bit dependent on it – but the survival rate of wild swarms is very low, and those that make it usually are settling on old wax where colonies have lived before. Giving a swarm a helping hand to get started, either with drawn out wax or with a syrup feed gives them the best chance of getting successfully established.

I’ll check them again in about a week and see how they are getting on – I’ll be looking for comb being drawn out and perhaps some eggs being laid.

Swarm Capture – Barham – May 2014

I got the call this week that there was a swarm of bees flying madly in my parent’s garden. Dad, being well trained, tried to spot where they settled but lost track of them.

Some sleuthing ensued and after an hour they were eventually found, 20ft off the ground in a tangle of branches. Talk about a challenging position!

They were out of reach of ladders, there was nothing firm nearby to even lean a ladder on, and the tangle of growth beneath made access even harder. We eventually worked out a way to make it all work – pruning back some trees, removing a couple of large branches from another and eventually slinging a rope around the end of the branch with the swarm. We were able to pull the branch down within range of a ladder and the  bees we safely dropped into a bucket.

They were transfered into a waiting box and left to sort themselves out.

The following morning

The bees had reformed their cluster on the outside of the box, but this time they were tangled with ivy and branches from the ground. I scooped the back in to the box, but there were lots of stragglers still congregating outside. Half an hour later I scooped more bees in.

When I checked later they had all retreated into the hive body, so the queen must have been back inside again.

Fingers crossed they are here to stay now.

The bees themselves are lovely – small bodied, dark, and from a feral colony in the roof which had been living there for at least ten years – great survivor bees!