Wow, it took something somewhat traumatic to get me writing again. Yes, today while minding my own business, I heard an incredible sound of flying bees and I immediately knew it was a swarm. I’ve read about them, talked about them, watched some stuff about them but, my my! First hand experience like this is something altogether different! I learned a few lessons today.
Lesson 1: Check your hive a bit more frequently. It was really hot and I was really busy this weekend (Happy 150th, Canada) so I didn’t check the two hives. If I did, I probably would have seen swarm cells and a least have been a bit more prepared. That said, I’m guessing there was no stopping the swarm by that point.
Lesson 2: Be thankful. Yup, I just happened to be home and working in my backyard when it happened. I would have missed the swarm and kissed them good bye otherwise. And, the swarm landed about 7′ up in a tree in my yard. Could have been much worse!
Lesson 3: Social Media can be your friend. I called the Victoria Swarm Hotline and left a message before heading to the Vancouver Island Beekeepers and the Bee Keeping Techniques Facebook groups and emailing/texting a couple of bee club members for help. Great encouragement from people all walks of life…put me in the right frame of mind. The Swarm Hotline people called me back within an hour (pretty impressive for a work day!). It was helpful to get some additional advice and encouragement after catching the swarm…and they would have come to help if I still needed it! 🙂
Lesson 4: Keep your batteries charged. I grabbed my camera and video camera right away and was able to catch some great footage that I’ll post later. Both cameras were flashing low battery the whole time…almost missed it (see lesson #2).
Lesson 5: Tuck your pants in your socks. While I was talking to a neighbour after catching the swarm, I suddenly felt movement on my knee…inside my pant leg. Yes, I panicked and got stung just above my knee on the side of my leg. Wow, it hurts now but, again, could have been worse! See #2 once again.
Lesson 6: Bee swarms are heavy. So I attempted to casually snip the first small branch from the swarm and it was 10 times heavier then I thought it would be. Needless to say, it slipped through my fingers and several hundred bees filled the air. At least I started with a small part of the swarm! By the time I captured the rest of the swarm into my nuc box there must have been 15+ lbs of bees.
Lesson 7: Bee prepared. I had kept a plastic nuc box around from when I bought my bees and I just happened to have a few frames with foundation. But, I had to run out an buy a hive box and some more frames to start a new hive. I guess it could have been worse. But – I had forgotten to pin the sides of the foundation so when I transferred them from the nuc to the new hive…yup, it fell out.
Lesson 8: Work with others (see lesson #3). This has been a good experience, and I think successful so far, but it has been great to have several people a phone call or email away. Yes, beekeeping seems to be a team sport – sort of like the colony itself, I guess.
A few more photos from the adventure: