I received the first call for a swarm today, Saturday, May 8, 2010. Sam called me and said she had a big ‘ole swarm o’ bees out back on the lilac. Sure enough, there it was. Now I was in a pickle. I needed to get to the fancy plant store to pick up flowers that I had ordered for Mother’s Day. I had a queen bee in a plastic box that I had picked up earlier in the morning and I wanted to get over to the big garden as soon as possible to re-queen a hive. I needed to feed the bunnies, get to the post office, pick up some bread at the grocery store and stop at the lab on the way home to check on some experiments that were running. I already felt rushed to get everything done and I did not want to deal with a swarm on top of all that. Nonetheless, I postponed all of my other plans in order to deal with the swarm. I gathered up some gear and Phil and I got ready to capture the swarm. I didn’t want the scouts to miss out on the chance to capture a swarm, so I contacted one of our scouts, Will, who lives only 2 blocks away from the swarm location. Unfortunately, his mom was working, his dad was in the thick of it, he was busy, his little brother was napping, the babysitter couldn’t let him go off with some strange man in a bee suit, etc., etc.. Then my cell phone went dead so I couldn’t call anyone else. What to do? The swarm looked really big and there were lots of really agitated-looking bees clumped in a giant bunch on the lilac. Phil and I thought we would wait a while and see if Will would show up in time to help us capture the swarm, but then we started getting nervous that the swarm might leave and who knew if Will was going to be able to show up anyway. This is a lesson in swarm catching – it never occurs on schedule or at a convenient time. In the end, Phil held a cardboard box under the swarm while I shook the bees off the lilac branch. We then put the box on the top of a six foot step ladder, positioning the box very close to the branch where the swarm was originally located. Will, his mom, little brother and grandmother, Norma, showed up at this point and we all admired the bees as they settled down and went into the cardboard box. The queen must be in the box or else the bees would not gather in it. Now that the swarm is in a box, we have time to think about what we will do with it. We can move it to a new hive later this week. I then felt really bad that we had tried to involve Will in swarm catching, but not knowing if he would show up, Phil and I dealt with the situation and Will did not get to see the swarm when it was really big and menacing looking. What is the lesson we learned from this? Swarm season is upon us and beekeepers must be prepared to deal with swarms at the most inconvenient times imaginable.
Swarm Season is Here. 1st Swarm of 2010.