Swarm in a Tree

 June 13, 2020
P. Michael Henderson

I received a note on NextDoor about a swarm in a tree in the sender's backyard.  The problem with swarms in trees is that I'm fairly old and don't like to climb shaky ladders to get a swarm.  But I decided to go look.

The bees were about ten feet up in a tree.  The bad part was that they were mixed in with a lot of small branches at the end of a larger branch.  That makes it difficult to vacuum them.

Here's a closer view of the swarm.  You can see how they're clustered in with all the branches.

I used the bee vacuum with the hose connected to a piece of inch-and-a-half PVC pipe and vacuumed as many as I could.  The problem was that some of the cluster was behind a branch or two and I couldn't get the pipe close enough to vacuum them.  So I tried to disturb them by knocking the branch, getting them to fly away from the cluster.  Some would settle in a different area where I could reach them.  I suppose I got most of them, but definitely not all of them.  I hope I got the queen.

I put them in a hive with some empty comb and fed them some honey.  You can see in this next picture the bee vacuum sitting on top of a brood box, with the bottom slide pulled out.

If I got the queen I expect I'll see them clustered on the comb soon and maybe some eggs in a week or so.  If not, I'll combine them with another hive.



[Update 6/16/2020] The bees escaped due to a stupid mistake on my part.  When I put them in the hive, I put a queen excluder on the bottom so that the queen couldn't get out of the hive. 

Last night I went out when it was dark and looked into the hive with a flashlight.  The bees were clustered on the comb and everything looked good.  I put the top back on and went inside.

However, when I put the top back on, I didn't put it on correctly.  It was sitting up on one side - see picture.  This is not a picture of the hive, it's some empty boxes I have.  I just used them to demonstrate the way the top was sitting.

This provided an escape route for the queen and I suppose she decided she didn't like my hive.  When I looked into it today, it was empty.  Dumb mistake on my part.  I must have had the queen because if she wasn't there, the worker bees would have just stayed.