Phase 1 of Swarm installation complete

Swarm in wooden box in front of the Beehaus
During my lunch break today I drove over to Chris Wells of Cotswolds Bees, just 25 min away in  Mickleton, to collect the swarm he'd managed to get in a bait hive. I was excited and quite nervous too. However, if  there is anyone who knows anything about bees it's Chris, as he's been a beekeeper for many years. However, something happened this afternoon that surprised even him.

The hive we were going to is in an apiary located on a beautiful site, right next to a field with countryside all around. When we got to the hive it seemed really busy at the entrance, which surprised Chris a bit. When we opened up we saw that the bees had made good progress on the frames during the short time they'd been in the hive. We spent ages trying to find the queen. When Chris eventually spotted her, she was on the floor of the hive  close to the entrance (another thing that surprised Chris and a possible sign for what was about to happen). She was a real slim jim. That's not great in the beekeeping world - the fatter and longer the Queen's rear end, the better. He suspected that the bees may have swarmed because they weren't happy with her. His solution was to give me a frame of  brood with eggs on it from one of his other hives, which was very kind of him. That way, I'd know if the bees wanted to get rid of her because they'd convert one of those brood cells into a queen cell and make a new queen. 

So, we trudged across the field to some of his other hives. We were gone literally 10 minutes and when we came back the bees had absconded. The rascals! So, the swarm had swarmed and left only a tiny amount of bees behind, which were no use to me.

Chris felt rather embarrassed by the whole affair although he needn't of - bees are wild creatures after all and we can't predict or control how they are going to behave. Although, thankfully he did have a solution. He had a swarm that he'd collected at the end of last year which he managed to see through the winter and they were growing and doing really well. He said I could have them. Great!

When we opened up that hive, they were certainly busy. It's weird because the queen dictates the temperament of the bees. Often, if you have a good laying queen the bees are fairly calm. But if the queen is a poor layer or there is something up, the bees can be quite aggressive and literally dive bomb your head. This swarm is calm but very skittish on the frames and move rather frantically around. I have seen bees like this before in another hive. No bad thing, it's just all to do with the pheromones the queen gives off. Chris told me that if you had to get another queen in the same colony, the temperament of the bees can change over night. Interesting, hey!

Anyway, we did spot the queen and good news - she has a lovely long rear end. Chris marked her for me with a big red blob on her back so she'll be easy for me to spot int he future. We then put the five frames in my wooden travelling box. This consists of a roof with an open strip of wire mesh, so the bees can get air and a small round entrance, which currently had a sponge jammed in to block it. With the box strapped up, it was ready to go in my car.

Once again, I had a colony of bees in the passenger seat footwell. It was a fairly stressful journey to the Beehaus because the buzzing seemed to be getting louder and I could hear the bees scratching on the wire mesh roof. I won't lie, I had quite a bit of road rage with slow drivers as I just wanted to get there as quick as I could.

According to Chris, there are two phases when it comes to housing a swarm. The first is to put the box where the hive will be, open the entrance (in other words, remove the sponge) and let them fly around for 24 hours. The second phase, is to open the box and place the frames into the hive. So, that's tomorrow's job...... I'll report back. 

I took the sponge out and the bees immediately started flying out having a nose around their new neighbourhood.


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