Hiving a Swarm

Every March, the honey bees start swarming.  The old queen leaves the hive and thousands of bees go with her.  Since the queen does not fly very well, she usually lands someplace near her old home.  The hum and flight of 20,000 swarming bees captures the excitement of Spring.  I love to stand amidst swarming bees… yes, they land on me, but they are not aggressive.  They are too busy locating the queen and fanning her smell to other bees.  In a short period of time, twenty minutes or so, what appears to be chaos settles down.  Most of the queen’s followers gather around her in a tight ball.  Meanwhile a few scout bees look for a more permanent location.

While the bees are clinging to the queen and before they choose a permanent site is a great time to move the bees into a location of your choice, preferably a hive body.  Swarming bees have nothing to defend.  They will go wherever the queen goes.  If you can convince the queen to enter and stay in a hive, the bees will follow her and set up a new home.

If you don’t have the queen in your hand, how do you move a swarm?  The answer depends mostly on the location of the swarm.  We have cut branches off trees and shaken the swarm into a hive, and we’ve swept the bees off porch roofs.  Moving the bees has required some team work – one person to move the bees and the other to catch them.  In this video, the swarm originally came together in a low branch on a peach tree.  They were easily accessible (not always the case).  This location made it possible for us to create the video.

Although I have moved swarms while not wearing any protective bee gear and was not stung, I don’t recommend this.  Allergic reactions are not something I have or want to develop!

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