Bonus Points (Swarms Part 2)

Last post I mentioned that we caught 2 swarms this week: one was from my hives, one wasn’t.  Full confession on my swarm is posted here.  Recovering your own swarm is like getting the rebound from your missed shot.  A second chance.   But a feral swarm?  Like getting 2 free-throws and the fouled bucket.  Bonus!

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Swarm is the dark shadow in the center of the bush

The Wake County Beekeepers Association is an active group of hobbyist, backyard, and sideline beekeepers.  They educate new beekeepers, do community outreach, and field swarm calls.  I was the lucky recipient of such a call this week.  Sauce was packing up to head out with Grammy & Gramps for a week at the beach when the call came in.  If you want the swarm, you have to go immediately.  Swarms congregate on a raised surface (fence, tree, your mailbox) for 1-24 hours debating their new home before making a decision and flying off to settle in.  Once they land on that surface, the clock starts ticking.

So I hugged Sauce a few extra times and hurried him off with grandparents while I took off for Garner.  Swarm reports are notoriously suspect.  Some people report wasps or yellow jackets.  Sometimes they are 40 feet in the air.  In someone’s gutters.  Or sometimes you get no info at all.  A good Samaritan called the Wake County Beekeepers to politely come get these bees.  This particular swarm had been parked in a bush in a suburban neighborhood for at least 24 hrs already.  Tick tock.  Luckily I keep all my swarm gear in the car for just such occasions.  Off I went.

The swarm was a pretty easy capture.  Just a few feet off the ground, tightly clustered.  I

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Swarm in box awaiting the slowpokes

moved them into my transport box and waited for them to settle.  A neighbor walking her dog eyed me suspiciously and turned around.  I don’t blame her.  I was dressed all in white, resting on my car bumper checking my email surrounded by confused, whirling bees.  Any thinking person would turn around.  But the bees in the box fanned their pheromones and drew the confused outliers back in.  In 15 minutes we were ready to roll.

I carried them straight to the farm, far away from any potential homesite they were considering and installed them in a fancy new place.  In the drive from the swarm to the farm, they had already built comb on the roof of the box.  These girls needed a home.  The most curious part of the morning was a forager bee loaded down with pollen in the swarm.  Pollen is collected to feed babies.  They had none.  Pollen is stored in comb.  They had none.  Was she out foraging and got caught up in the tide of swarming bees?  Or an uber prepared forager just waiting to unload the groceries?  Either way she would have to wait on the house bees to build some new comb so she can unpack her pockets.

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Casper realizes the funny box is now occupied

We welcomed this new hive to live in our feature hive on the farm.  The pretty English garden hive in my fledgling pollinator garden.  It’s great to finally see the hive buzzing for the first time this spring.  New life lifts the spirits.  Especially when it’s bonus bees.  But just as I prepared to rest on my laurels (I actually don’t have any of those) I noticed a nearby duck emergency.  But that’s a story for next time.

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