The kids headed off with Momaw and Granddad last night so Emily and I planned to grab a bite to eat and then go pick blackberries. Literally, as we were walking out the door, the metro emergency center called and said there was a swarm of bees up in a tree in Kanawha City, a section of Charleston near where I work. I looked at Emily and she rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine, go get your bees.” Obviously, she wasn’t thrilled but she agreed to ride along. She’s never been on a swarm call with me before so this was sure to be fun!
We drove to Kanawha City and found the home owner out in her yard looking up in a tree. I knew we had the right spot right away. We chatted for a bit about how her Dad had bees. It’s interesting but it seems like almost everyone over the age of 60 once had a family member who had bees. It’s such a shame that there are so very few beekeepers left and even fewer under the age of 65. Anyhow, there was indeed a small swarm of bees about 8 feet up in the oak tree in her front yard.
I brought a ladder and I always carry pruners on these calls. I donned my suit for proper protection (note the crocs on my feet!) and headed up the tree. Swarms that are close to the ground often can be brushed into a hive box with a gentle hand (or shook into the box with a rough hand). Swarms in trees are a little different. When possible, I like to trim the branch on which they hang and bring them down to a manageable height, i.e. the ground. I clipped the branch with the bees and gently laid the small branch into the hive (I removed 4 frames to make room) once back on the ground. Sometimes I shake them into the hive so I don’t need to add the branch but this one seemed to fit without shaking.
I just stop up the entry to the hive and put a strap around the hive to travel. As I mentioned, Emily was with me and not too keen on riding in the van with bees. I don’t officially recommend this to anyone, but I have found that riding with bees in the car is actually a little easier than riding with kids. The kids fight and yell and can’t do anything but stare at each other making menacing faces. Bees, on the other hand, don’t care a lick about me but prefer to hang around the back windows hoping to find an escape. I have never been stung while carrying bees in the van. But, don’t try it at home…
The swarm was pretty small and will not likely be worth much alone. I have a few hives that are very full of bees so I will add a few frames of bees from those hives to the new swarm to make a good, strong colony. With any luck, they will grow into a stronger colony, ready for the honey flow next spring!