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The Beehive: Combining beehives to make one producing colony

The rescued Kalla swarm looks fairly harmless, but isn’t. If you have one in your yard or in a tree, call a professional beekeeper to remove it. (Brett Kent / For the Enterprise)

By  Brett Kent / For the Enterprise

Welcome back to the Beehive.

Swarm season has officially begun. On July 3, Gail Kalla called me with what she said was an unusual request. Gail said her kids had discovered a big ball of bees in their apple tree. I asked Gail a few questions, and then before you know it, I was loading my pickup, for what I think is one of the most exciting events in beekeeping, catching swarms. In this particular case, I was up against the sun setting.

When I arrived at the Kalla residence, I was met by Gail, her husband James and their children. I introduced myself and they pointed to the seven-foot- tall apple tree on the edge of their yard. There it was, my first swarm of the season. The swarm was bigger than a basketball, and about five feet off the ground. I would guess there to be about 12,000 to 15,000 bees.

Gail asked if it was safe to get so close. I explained that when the bees are in the swarm mode, they have nothing, or no home to defend. Then, on top of that, the bees are very vulnerable, which makes the swarm very passive. Now, I am not saying that everyone should run up and hug the next swarm they find, but I am saying that, for the most part, the bees will put up with more in this state, than at any other time.

I asked James if he had a sawhorse handy. I snapped a few quick pictures and then put an empty deep hive box on the sawhorse, just below the ball of bees. I then shook the branch the bees were on, and they fell into the hive box. The bees immediately began fanning, as if to tell the rest of the swarm that this would be an acceptable place to live. I set the box of bees on the ground, to allow the bees that missed the box, a chance to walk into the hive box.

Within a few minutes, all the bees had hunkered down into their new home. During this time, I was explaining what was happening to the Kalla family. I have to say, that I never get tired of talking about the bees, and love to take advantage of a “bee teaching moment.”

I put the cover on, and loaded the bees in my pickup. I thanked the Kalla family for giving me an opportunity to give these bees a home.

So how is this for timing? Earlier this day, I had pinched one of the queens in one of my nuc hives. She was not laying enough eggs and the hive was falling way behind all the others. I had planned to combine this poor hive with another nuc hive. While I was driving home, I decided to combine the queenless nuc with the swarm I had just captured.

When I got home, I took the cover off the nuc hive and then covered it with a piece of newspaper. I poked small nail holes in the newspaper and sprayed it with sugar water. I then placed the deep hive box that the swarm was in on top of the newspaper. The idea is that the bees on both sides of the newspaper will begin chewing holes through the newspaper, and become one hive. The time it takes to chew through the paper will give the bees a chance to smell the same, and make them less likely to be aggressive towards each other. As of today, it looks like I have a very strong hive that has potential to be a honey producer this season.

I have to run, just want to say thanks again to the Kalla family. If you folks see a swarm, and think they are in need rescue, give me a call. Until next time, take care.