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.
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.
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!
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.
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!