How not to catch swarms of bees

It has been a really busy swarm season for me this year.  I think the mild winter allowed a lot of bees to survive that otherwise would not have made it and many colonies started spring build-up earlier than normal.  I think that I love catching swarms more than any other part of keeping bees.  I like seeing them en masse out where they can be “checked out” and I love their temperament.  I love being the brave bee man who dazzles audiences and makes women swoon and men blush.

Swarm of bees after dark

Typically it is a pretty straight forward process and is actually pretty safe (for me…I know what I am doing.  Do not try this at home unless you know what you are doing…10,000 angry stinging insects in a typical swarm will not end well if you do it wrong).  Usually I survey the bees a few minutes before digging into the capture.  The only hairy part of catching a swarm is usually climbing into the tree with a box of some sort in which to capture the bees.

The night-swarm, happy in their new home

I have caught two swarms recently that have been interesting though.  A few weeks ago I had a message on my phone from a family who had a swarm of bees in a tree outside their home.  They had small kids and were nervous of the bees being in the playyard.  It was 8:30 pm or so when I discovered the message so I headed to their place a town west of where I live.  By the time I got to their place, it was 9:15 or so at night.  After driving, I wasn’t about to walk away from a nice swarm, dark or not.  The man of the house left a spotlight aimed up in the tree while I climbed into the tree.  I was able to scoop the bees into my box and climb back down in the dark.  Luckily, that went off without a hitch.  Catching a swarm after dark is not a good thing though.  Usually bees disturbed after dark assume the perturber is a bear or other critter which has bad witchery in mind.  Luckily, I did not smell like a bear I guess!

Big swarm of bees Big swarm of bees

Sunday, I was at our place in the country for a little bit to do some work and I needed to attend to the call of the water gods.  As I completed the…uh…task, I happened to turn my head to the right and not 18 inches from my face was a huge swarm of bees.  I was near the bee yard so I assumed the buzzing noise was from the bee yard, not from a swarm hanging right beside me.  It was pretty exciting to see the swarm pretty close to ground level but I was without a bee suit.  “What should I do?” I asked myself.  “Be a honey badger (some language)of course!”  So, without a suit, I proceeded to gently cut the inch thick branch from the tree and move the swarm to the hive box I happened to have sitting in the bee yard.  A number of bees fell on my sleve but I only got one sting…one sting from a bee anyhow.  Somehow in the process of moving the swarm, I skidded the handsaw across my hand which left a lovely opening in my skin.

Bees from the swarm on my arm Bees from the swarm on my arm

Well friends, I do love catching swarms but I cannot really suggest that anyone catch swarms after dark or without a bee suit.  In both cases it turned out fine, but unless you are a fool or a beekeeper who rocks like KISS (I will leave you to decide which case describes me), you should catch swarms in the usual and safe manner.  Sometimes I get swarm-drunk (Wasn’t KISS drunk a lot of the time?  hint, hint) and can’t help myself!



Some other swarms I have caught

13 thoughts on “How not to catch swarms of bees

  1. How cool! I would love to see a swarm of bees someday! But I promise not to touch it. 🙂

  2. When I went with my parents after getting a swarm call, I always felt a bit like Ghostbusters showing up at a scene, getting into our suits with our tools strapped to them and proceeding to do business. I’m sure as a teen, I did my share of swaggering for the onlookers.

  3. Oh my. I just found your blog from searching for “canning vacuum sealer pump” and have spent the last half hour reading all sort of goodness. Thanks for all the helpful info! I’m subscribing now, so I can check you out later this summer as I make my first attempt at canning!

  4. Key Kate…glad you stopped by! We can a bunch of stuff so we always get a big kick out of other people who still get into it as well. How’s the garden coming along?

  5. Those were some cool bee swarms! Did you have to get another box set up for all of the new bees you have gotten this year? or do you mix them with the other bees? Just wondering where you put them once you get them home. 🙂

    If I ever see a swarm of bees I’ll be sure to give you a call! I will not touch them, no way! 🙂

  6. Angela,
    I always have a few extra boxes around for this very issue. Although, I am running pretty thin right now! Anyhow, mixing bees is not usually a good idea. It can be done but takes time and the right process.

  7. Next time you go capture a swarm, is there any chance that it could be filmed? I’ve never seen it done and I would be very interesting to watch how you do it.

  8. Kate,
    That’s a good idea. I don’t think I have ever been filmed but maybe I can do that next time. Of course, we are nearing the end of swarm season so it may be next year unfortunately.

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