Friday, May 13, 2016

Capturing a wild swarm of bees and living to tell about it!

Several years ago, Sue called me to say they had a big swarm of bees in a tree right by their house and asked what to do. At the time I was no help, the next day the bees were gone. Oh if I knew then what I know now....

There are several reasons bees swarm, mostly it is because of over crowding in a hive. They get restless, take their queen and abscond the residence, searching for a better home to live and usually end up clumped in a tree somewhere.

I did a lot was reading on capturing a swarm, watched a lot of You Tube videos and decided I could do that. Last month I put an ad on Craigslist for Bee Swarm Removal, never expecting to get an answer.

I was wrong! But the guy was not very forthcoming about details and at first I thought he was just jerking my chain, sometimes you get that on Craigslist. Our email conversation:

him - I have a swarm of bees in a lilac bush in my yard.
me - Where do you live?
him - Sioux City
me - I'm going to need a few more details, address? Picture? (By this time I was pretty sure it was a farce.)
But he sent me his address and a picture of a swarm of bees in his lilac bush! Well, now this is more like it, it was too late to go then so I asked him to email me in the morning if they were still there.

They were so Bruce and I left about 7:30 in the pickup armed with the ladder, loppers, hand clippers, bee suits, smoker bucket, a large cardboard box with a screened vent in one side and duct tape. I was so excited to find the house and see the swarm for myself. Bruce was great help, getting the ladder set up and, after suiting up, he kept me in tools.

Sorry, Bruce, not the greatest picture!

Me, in full gear, ready for battle.

The swarm is about 8 ft tall, near the top of the bush, just to the right, at this point I was just hoping the bees had watched the same you tube video that I did and knew what was expected of them.

They were clustered around a main branch and extended out into small branches. So I first used the small hand clippers to sever the little branches and then used the loppers to cut the main branch. All the while I was trying to be gentle and not disturb them but they were disturbed and started buzzing and vibrating, a few flying away from the clump.

I finally had the branch separated and carried it carefully down the ladder and 'thunked' it into the box, knocking most of the bees off but hundreds started circling, dive bombing and landing on Bruce and I. Lots of bees were perched on the edge of the box, their little hineys stuck in air, vibrating, that is the signal to the bees that their queen was in the box and the rest should come, pronto.

In the video, now is the time to be patient, chill out and let the pheromones put out from the queen to all her subjects that they were to come to the box. So Bruce and I swept the bees from each other, undressed from our suits and went to have a donut. 

When we got back we found that a small clump had congregated back in the top of the bush so I went back up and cut it off, this time trimming back the small branches and placing the branch into the box. It seemed to be their security blanket.

We hung around for awhile and decided to what we had and head for home.

I used the smoker and a whisk broom, brushing the bees into the box, folding in the flaps and duct taping the openings.

Done and done! The box was loaded into the back of the pickup, braced with a bag of beef feed and the ladder, the last thing I wanted was to have the box go flying out of the back as we were tooling down the highway.

We had lots of hitchhiker bees on the box and in the back of the pickup, we made two stops on the way home and lost some bees. We saw people waving their arms around, trying to ward off the bees. One guy was standing outside the A & W watching us get in the pickup with all the bees swarming around the box, we can only imagine what he was thinking.

Back home I set of the little trap hive I made for Sue a few years ago, as a temporary home. I put a couple of bars of drawn comb and a jar of sugar water for sustenance, then untaped the box, gave it a good shake and dumped them in the open end of the hive.

I swept the bees away as I replaced the top bars, then put a board on the top bars and weighted it down with a cement block. I saw that my board was too small so later I found a bigger board and put it over the other one.

I left the box and the pickup where they were and went in the house to take a well deserved nap. When I went out later, only 3 bees were in the box and none in the pickup box and very few flying around. Most seem to have accepted their new home.

I peeked in the observation window near dusk and saw the bees clumped on the comb so took that as a very good sign. If all goes well, in a week or so I should find capped brood and then I will know it was a success.

Then I better get my butt in gear and build another hive for my growing family because Friday I pick up a package of bees to install in the other hive at the pond.

Friday morning we peeked in the hive window and everyone was nestled in and hoping they stay. When we got home yesterday, I found a package in the mail and pulled out these chicken socks.

I have no idea who sent them but thank you, I love them! I'm all dressed up, ready to hit the road for a very important test but I'm having a hard time walking without scratching the ground.


  1. oh my gosh what a cool experience !!! You did a fantastic job telling the story step by step. Good luck with the new bees !!! And those SOCKS !!!!! Love them !!!!!

  2. So, is the position as Headmaster of the Bee Swarm Removal company a paid position?? Actually, couldn't pay me enough to climb a ladder with a space suit and diving gear and get my lopers working AND NOT FALL OUT OF THE TREE! Think I'll continue to live thru your experiences!!!

  3. Now I know how you were able to get the swam, what a great story and experience!!
    Hopefully they decide to stay and start doing their work - producing honey. I can come and help build your new hives, just let me know when.
    Love the socks as well.

  4. Wow, add another page to your resume. Outstanding story. Those socks are hilarious, how perfect for you!

  5. Wow, add another page to your resume. Outstanding story. Those socks are hilarious, how perfect for you!

  6. Good Grief, woman, what CAN'T you do?!?! ACCHH, I can't imagine doing that!! But, now you have 'free bees' and I hope they stay in their new home. You never fail to amaze me, Julie, at what you can do. I loved reading about this and also seeing the excellent pictures to help tell the tale. Love ya, CG (By the way, glad you liked the sox!!)