SoCal Beekeeping

It's Swarm Season
P. Michael Henderson

I put a note in "Nextdoor", an application that connects people in a neighborhood, asking people to contact me if they have a swarm in their yard.  I got one response and picked up a swarm that was in an orange tree (April 10).

It was hard to get to - the swarm was about 8 feet up and right in the middle of the tree, clustered around several branches.  The bee vacuum was about the only way I could have gotten them.

I put them in a hive in my apiary and they seem to be doing okay - I see a lot of activity around the front of the hive.  I'll go into the hive soon to see if there's any eggs.

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Then, about a week later, I was over at my commercial beekeeper friend's house (Janet) and was processing some frames of honey.  Janet was talking about swarms and mentioned that she had a swarm establish itself in an empty hive in her backyard.  Then she mentioned that she had another one fly into a barrel that she kept on her front porch.  She knew I was looking for a swarm so she asked me if I wanted it.  I jumped at the chance.

I went home and got my bee vacuum, my bee suit, and some tools to be able to take the top off the barrel.  When I got to Janet's place she was in her suit, ready to help.

Turns out the barrel was in pretty bad shape so we just knocked the hoops off of it and disassembled it.  I vacuumed up the bees.  It was  a big swarm - a lot of bees.  Too bad I was too busy to take pictures.

I put them in my apiary in a single brood box hive and they seem to be settling in okay.  I put an excluder under the brood box so the queen (if I got her) can't leave the hive.  I'll have to remove that in a couple of weeks so the drones can get out of the hive.

In a couple of weeks I'll be able to tell is I have a laying queen in the hive.  I gave them frames of foundation but they'll have to draw out the comb.

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On April 25th I got a call from Elizabeth, the woman I sold a hive to.  Her neighbor had a hive under a platform like structure.  She helped me collect that hive.  It had quite a bit of comb and I put the brood comb in the hive.  Looks like they've taken well.  I saw some brood in the larva stage so it looks like there's a queen and she's laying.  But it could be eggs left from before we picked them up so I'll have to check again later.

Here are a few pictures from the cutout.  The bees were under a "platform" type device.  It had a solid top but was open underneath.  I lifted the platform and found comb in one corner.

To remove the comb, I used a knife to cut it from the platform.  I'd then vacuum the bees off the comb and hand it to Elizabeth who put the comb in a plastic bin (with a top).  I just worked slowly and methodically, one piece of comb at a time - cut the comb off, vacuum the bees and then save the comb.

At the same time, I didn't waste any time because my next step was to mount the brood comb in frames and put that in a hive body before I transferred the bees to that hive.  I looked into the hive a few days ago (today is May 6) and it looks like the brood made it okay (didn't get chilled).  I need to go back in and see if I have eggs in the comb, which would prove that I have a queen in the hive.

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The swarm I picked up at Janet's built a lot of comb and brought in honey and pollen - but there's no eggs or other sign of a queen.  So I combined them with the hive Elizabeth and I picked up.

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5/1/2019 - Then I got a call about a hive in a cable TV box and picked them up on May 1.  They had some brood comb and I put that into frames in the box that I put the bees into.  It'll take a while to see whether I got a Queen in this one.

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5/14/2019 - Janet called me a couple of days ago and asked me if I wanted to go pick up an easy cutout at a home in Orange.  I got Elizabeth to go with me so that she could have some experience collecting a hive.  The hive was in a upside down flower pot and it was small and queenless.  But Elizabeth collected the hive and we merged them with Elizabeth's hive.