The swarming season always throws up an interesting array of phone calls about bees and this year has been no exception despite BBKA’s improved information about what constitutes a swarm. Most of the calls I have had this year have been from people with bees already lodged in the fabric of buildings, or bumble bees. Several swarms were reported, but by the time I was ready to collect they had also departed, hopefully not into someone else’s chimney.
One particularly frustrating experience was after a message left on my answer phone while I was collecting my husband, from Walsgrave hospital. We finally arrived home at 9.30pm so I decided to phone about the reported swarm first thing the following morning. The caller then informed me that the swarm had already been collected by another beekeeper which I was grateful for. However a few hours later she again rang to say that there was another swarm in the same place - in the hedge bordering a public footpath, and there were now bees all over the footpath as well as buzzing in the hedge.
It seemed unlikely that another swarm would alight in exactly the same spot but I said I would come to investigate. It was clear that the ‘swarm’ of a sizeable number of bees was part of the swarm that had been inadequately collected the day before, but I felt I couldn’t leave them as they were on a public path way. I knocked the caller’s door and she said ‘Oh come in I have (…) on the phone - he collected the bees yesterday - do you want to speak to him?’ I asked (….) If he could come and collect the remainder the bees he had left the day before, but he blithely informed me that he was collecting 3 (!) swarms that day and didn’t have the time!
Being public spirited, but rather annoyed, I captured the remaining bees in a box and left warning notices around. Returning later I saw many of the bees were entering the box, but I decided to leave them till dusk to ensure that all the flying bees were in the box. That evening I arrived to collect the box to find the caller, another woman and a boy, standing near the path, the box dislodged and bees flying everywhere. The young lad had decided to give the box a kick. So… half a frustrated hour later I took the large melon sized group of bees and threw them into one of my hives with icing sugar and crossed my fingers that no fighting would ensue.
The point of this rambling story is that if you collect a swarm, do make sure you leave the box/skep on site and collect it when most of the flying bees have returned - particularly if it is in a public space. Also, it illustrates that swarm collecting can sometimes be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Sometimes you think you have captured a swarm only to discover when returning to collect it, that it has scarpered.
One of the misconceptions about swarms is that you still need to observe the 3 mile rule - no, when bees swarm this goes out the window, so you can collect a swarm from one of your hives and re-hive them in your apiary - but not back in the original hive… then they will just swarm again.
Make a note of the dates for Fetes and Fairs on our Events page, where we have a marquee and live bees and provide public information sessions. Do come along to help if you can, or just show support. Let Rowan know if you are able to help.