If anyone read our first experience with swarming bees, they will know that I have an Italian Queen who hates to stay home. She swarmed the first time only about 6 weeks after we got her and her crew, leaving the hive very weak. So we rounded her up and started her in a new hive. 4 weeks later...she swarmed again. Since we had two hives already, we let her go. They must have found a spot in a hollow tree (we have lots around here), but wasn't happy with it. Sunday we were outside and saw psycho bees near the garden.
We waited for them to land and checked our two hives to see if they had come from there. The weak hive was unchanged and the second stronger hive was still full also. We couldn't quite figure out where they came from, so we set about capturing them with the intentions of replacing the weak hive with the thousands of bees that were now in a branch about 18 feet off the ground. Easier said than done.
We thought about several scenarios, all involving a ladder that didn't quite reach the branch and cutting the branch. Since there was about 10 pounds of bees on the end of the branch, we knew that my husband could not hold the branch without it coming back and slapping him or the tree. So I came up with the idea of 4 poles and a plastic sheet. Tie the corners of the sheet to the poles, then 4 people on the ground would hold the poles as high as they could; James would cut the branch and drop all the bees the 6 feet down into the tarp. We would then close the tarp between us and then pour the bees into the waiting brood chamber.
It probably was not one of my better ideas.
I actually managed to draft three other volunteers to hold the poles and we stood in place as James climbed the ladder and carefully leaned out and cut the branch. It probably would have worked had not one of the poles broke. The bees hit the tarp, the pole broke, and 3,000 bees were dumped on the ground and came back PISSED. I was the only one who didn't get stung and that did not improve the moods of the ones who did. (There was actually brief talk of holding me down and dumping bees in my pants)
After everyone and the bees calmed down a bit, James went over to see what was in the dazed (and probably brain damaged)pile of bees on the ground. Just as he is trying to scoop some up, the queen, still with her little white tag, flies slowly up in front of him. (This was the first indication that it was our original queen) If we hadn't been so frustrated, it actually would have been kind of funny watching James trying to snatch her out of the air.
Of course, since the branch 18 feet off the ground was now gone, she flew to one 30 feet off the ground. We spent the next hour and a half trying to throw a rope over the branch to shake it. We finally succeeded, but it was too stout to give a really good shake and we only managed to knock about a third of them down into the tarp (spread on the ground this time, as nobody would hold it with me for some odd reason).
Poor things. They had their brains rattled again. We searched for the queen, but she wasn't there. I think I heard her up in the tree going "Naa-na-naa-na-poo-poo", but it could have been James gritting his teeth. We dumped them in the hive anyway as it was getting dark and by the next morning they were all back up in the tree with the queen. We decided that when James got home from work that afternoon, we would cut the darn tree down if we had to. I was either going to get her back or SQUASH her!
Of course, by the time he came home, they were all gone. But this isn't over yet. I KNOW she'll be back and I've got stronger poles this time. I just don't know where I'll find the volunteers to hold them...
Ohh, a garbage can. I hadn't thought of that. Where do I find these gulible boy scouts? All my friends and relatives have gotten suspicious of my ideas lately. One has taken to calling me Lucy and saying she's nNOT going to be my Ethel.
Oh for heaven's sake! I can't get my bees to stay home. I went out this morning and we have ANOTHER swarm and I don't think it's the one from last week. It's a small swarm and fairly close to my hives. Why do my bees keep running away. I give them food, I give them nice clean supers. I'm a GOOD mommy! What more could they possibly want?
Tonight we are going to shake this one into a box and see who the queen is and mark her. (Will acrylic paint work?)
What? You mean their wings? Please, tell me more.
We went out to see if the hives both had queens and they did and one even had honey! I swiped about a tablespoon and boy I hope we get more. That was one expensive tablespoon of honey, if we don't.