Beehive: Rescuing and relocating an after-swarm
By Brett Kent / For the Enterprise
Welcome back to the Beehive. Things continue to spin out of control at the Double “B”ee bee farm, in a good way. Brenda and I have been called to rescue several swarms in the past weeks. We have been able to capture some, and we had to let others go, just because there isn’t enough time in the day.
One afternoon last week, Ron Schroeder and his wife, Helene, gave us a call. Ron said that they had a chickadee roosting box in their front yard, and a swarm of honeybees moved into it. Brenda and I went out to the Schroeders and found what looked to be an after-swarm. What I mean by an after-swarm is, a small swarm, which usually occurs after the first major swarm leaves the hive.
When the bees in the hive feel like they are running out of room, the swarm process begins. The bees create several new queens. Just before the first new queen hatches, the old queen leaves the hive with the older foraging bees.
Usually the queen flies to a nearby tree, where the bees loyal to her, usually half the bees in the hive, will cluster up with her. This is when the scout bees will leave the cluster and attempt to find a suitable place to live. The swarm will usually stay put for 30 minutes, and up to a couple of days.
When the scouts return, the scout that does the most enthusiastic dance will draw the attention of the cluster, and the swarm will be off, on its way to the new hive location. Now, as a beekeeper, this means I have 30 minutes to a day or two to capture that swarm.
Once the first swarm leaves the hive, the first new queen hatches in the next day or two. Now the first order of business for the new queen is to search out any other queens that are about to hatch and kill them. If the new queens do not duke it out, and more than one queen is allowed to survive, then you will have after-swarms.
Each new queen will attract a few thousand bees and they will follow her as she leaves the hive. I have seen four after-swarms out of a single hive. This will decimate the hive and it will not survive.
The Schroeders’ chickadee roosting box was made to order if you were looking to catch a swarm of honey bees. It was about 12 feet off the ground, and it had an inch and a half hole in it. That is the perfect recipe for a swarm trap. So Brenda and I opened the chickadee box and found a small swarm of honeybees. The bees had made several pieces of wax comb already and were on their way to starting a new hive box.
One of the options Schroeders had was to leave the bees in the chickadee roosting box. One of the concerns I had, and shared with Ron Schroeder, was that he lived in the middle of the Hubbard Prairie. The bees would be exposed to some aerial spraying out there.
It was decided that I would move the bees into a hive box, and then I would feed them up with some sugar water. I placed the hive box on a portable deer stand in the chickadee roosting box location. This would allow all the bees a chance to get used to the new box, and get some food in their bellies.
Brenda and I returned to bring them home eight days later after dark. This assured us that all the foraging bees would have returned to the hive for the evening. I then screened the hive opening off and moved the hive to one of my bee yards. I checked the hive this morning, and it is doing great. I found the new queen and she looks spectacular. Well, not as good as Brenda, but pretty darn nice. LOL
Brenda and I would like to thank the Schroeders for giving us a chance to help the bees.
Lastly, I would like to mention that Brenda and I will be out at the Legends and Logging Days event this weekend, Aug. 9 and 10. We are going to bring the observation hive, so come on out and see if you can spot the queen.