(Almost) catching a swarm
I'll bet you thought today's post was going to be about goats, didn't you? After checking on Artemesia Friday morning
and finding the kidding signs ominous but not necessarily imminent, I
decided to fill my day with small chores that could be easily
interrupted by trips to the goat barn. "Maybe I'll start by pruning that
grape vine I've been putting off since March," I said to myself.
Heading over to the vine with clippers in hand, I was surprised to notice bees hanging out on the outside of one of our hives.
If it had been a hot afternoon, that could have been cooling behavior.
But the morning was chilly and drizzly. Uh oh --- looked like in all of
my goat obsession recently, I'd allowed the hive to swarm.
But this time, the swarm
was neither gone nor on a branch fifty feet above my head. Instead,
they'd settled on the U-post onto which Mark had attached a trellis wire
to train the young grape --- yes, the precise plant I'd come out to
Mark was in town filming a
student project, so I called my beekeeping mentor instead. Frankie's
primary role in this project was calming me down --- I was pretty
jittery between my pre-dawn goat-barn visit and thinking through trying
to catch a swarm on my lonesome. But my mentor also gave me good advice
--- don't forget to put a sheet underneath the new hive (I used row
cover fabric) and shake the post rather than trying to brush the bees
into the hive.
Thump, thump! The
mass of bees fell (mostly) into the deep Langstroth box exactly as
planned. But when I looked more closely, I realized the ones outside
weren't crawling in the way they should have if the queen was inside the
box. And when I braved the honeysuckle to look at the indented side of
the U-post, I saw that a considerable amount of the cluster was still
hidden in that cavity.
So I thumped again,
gnawed on my fingernails, called my beekeeping mentor...and was ecstatic
when a trip to the hive half an hour later found the box humming with
life and nearly every bee inside. (Yes, I'd inserted the frames and put
on the lid earlier.) Success!
Or so I thought. After
watching Artemesia deliver two healthy kids (more on that in tomorrow's
post) and spending a few hours cleaning the twins up and making sure
they could nurse, I went back to check on the bees. The box was empty,
my swarm fled. Yet again, I'd lost our hive's propagule to the wilds.
What would I do
differently next time? First, I would have listened to my beekeeping
mentor and my gut and checked out that hive earlier in the week. But all
I could think about was goats and gardens, so the bees once again ended
up on the back burner.
to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the
RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.
Second, once I saw that
the new hive contained most of my swarm, I think I might have blocked
off the entrance for a day. Surely that would have helped them decide
the box was home.
Third, if it hadn't been
raining, it might have helpted to take a comb of brood out of the mother
hive and insert it into the swarm box. After all, they say bees won't
All of that said, two bouncing goatlings are quite a consolation prize. And one of these days, I'll catch...and keep...a swarm.