Monday, August 6, 2012

A Swarm!

Yesterday morning it was so peaceful and cool out that after all of my regular chores were finished, I took my Boer doeling, Aurora ,out on a leash to graze in one of the few places on our property that still has quite a bit of green grass. While out there, I began to hear a steady hum that sounded like buzzing bees. My first thought was possibly a swarm, so I hurriedly put Aurora back in the pen and went to investigate.

Using my ears as a guide, I tried to pinpoint where the hum was coming from and found it to be around where one of our huge oak trees was. Looking way up in the uppermost branches, I saw what I was looking for . . . bees by the hundreds buzzing all around and slowly gathering onto a branch where most of the swarm had already landed.

The swarm at the top of the tree

It didn't take long until the air was entirely quiet . . . and there at the very top of the tree, far out of reach, the swarm sat. I put together a makeshift swarm bait trap and set it up before we left for our morning and afternoon with brothers and sisters in the Lord. The hope was that scout bees would find the box, and that the swarm would decide that it would make a good new home!

The same photo as above only it is cropped so that the swarm can be seen better

When we got back home, I checked where the swarm was, and it was still there . . . I checked later, and all was still quiet . . . until around 7:30 when the air was filled with literally thousands of honeybees flying all around the beeyard, orchard, and goat pen. It was an amazing sight to see! We weren't exactly sure what was happening so just watched, waited, and tried to pinpoint where the bees might be gathering. Gradually the number of bees began to dissipate, and we realized that the swarm was going back to the hive it came from! Instead of going in, though, they were going underneath of it.

Early this morning when we went out to check the hive, we found that the swarm had gone back into the hive and were no longer underneath of it. Dad and I planned to inspect the hive later in the day to try to figure out what was going on and what to do about it. The bees had other plans, though, and swarmed yet again while we were doing our morning chores (Leah and I got to watch it!) . . . this time, though, the swarm landed low enough that we could try to capture it. But before we could get the supplies ready, it had flown back to the hive again leaving us rather puzzled as to what these bees were doing!

The hive from which the swarm came . . . it's a lot calmer after we did the split!

So Dad and I suited up, did a hive inspection, and then did what is called a 'split' in the hopes of preventing the hive from swarming for real . . . we took the queen and a number of frames from the old hive and moved them to empty hive boxes; hopefully making the original hive and the bees that we transferred think that they already swarmed. But . . . we don't really want another hive right now, so once the bees settle down a bit and get over their swarm urge, we're going to try to combine the two back together again.

The 'new' hive . . . the bees are doing what is called 'bearding' here as it is too hot inside for all of them. We have since provided more ventilation for them. Since this hive has a solid bottom board and not a screened one like our other hives, it gets a lot warmer inside!

So that was our excitement the past two mornings! It was really fascinating to watch, and it will be interesting to see what all takes place with the hive and split now. 

This photo has nothing to do with the swarm, but it does have to do with bees so I thought I would include it. :) This is one of the waterers we have for the bees, and it has seen heavy traffic during the past several hot weeks!

And while I am on the topic of beekeeping, it looks like we might be harvesting some honey this month, and if so, there will be more about that in a future post!


  1. Wow! That's really strange! honey bees really are unpredictable aren't they.:-) Sounds like you did the right thing aobut it though - it's good you were able to do the temporary split before they swarmed for good! That would be so nice if you get a honey harvest this year. It is such a reward for all the hard work that beekeeping involves. :-)

  2. Did you and your Dad ever figure out what was causing the bees to move in and out of the hive like that?

    ~ Betsy

  3. One wonders what reason they had for swarming, maybe it's the heat?
    How lovely to have your honey harvest!

  4. That's just fascinating! So you didn't find any reason for it in the old hive? I would have imagined it'd be because either the hive was uncomfortable for some reason, or that all the honeycomb was full... but then they'd want their honey for winter, wouldn't they... how odd. Not that I know much at all about bees! even though my Grandad was a bee farmer. He passed away earlier this year, so we are all eating the last of Grandad's honey; which is a bittersweet thing to do.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. Have you had any rain in the last few weeks?

  6. Glad you have them in the hive now.Fresh honey will taste wonderful!

  7. How fascinating! Will be interesting to hear what these little creatures decide to do ;) How exciting that you will have honey soon! :o)

  8. I just came here from your Esty shop. I LOVED your dolls and do hope Lord willing to buy one someday for one of my girls. :) I think I will enjoy reading your blog as well.

  9. It was really strange, Karen! Especially when we opened the box and found that the queen was still laying (which is probably why the swarm kept coming back – they didn’t have a queen!), and there were no swarm cells other than one partially begun one that didn’t even have an egg in it. This hive of bees certainly isn’t ‘going by the book’! :) Have you ever had one of your hives do something like this? I haven't heard of anything like it before! The day after doing the split, the hive sent out a little swarm, and I don’t think it ever came back to the hive. Hopefully with that, the hive will be over its swarm urge now, and we can combine the two again soon.

    As things are looking now, we should be able to harvest honey within the next few weeks. This will be our first harvest, and we’re excited about it!

  10. After looking in the hive, Betsy, we found that the reason they would have kept coming back to the hive was because the queen wasn’t with them . . . she must have missed the memo that the hive was preparing to swarm. :) Why they would swarm in the first place, though, is a mystery as the hive had done none of the typical swarm preparations (such as making swarm cells) which is why having the hive swarm was such a surprise to us. It was really strange!

  11. I know, Elizabeth! It could be from the heat, giving the bees a sense of being overcrowded. Sometimes honeybees do unusual things, and this was one of those cases!

    It will be wonderful being able to harvest our own honey. We’re looking forward to it!

  12. It is fascinating, Rena! Honeybees are amazing little creatures. No, we didn’t find any reason for why they would have left the hive. And unusually, they had none of the regular indicators or preparations done for swarming! So we’re really not sure what all triggered it.

    It would make sense for them to leave if their honeycomb is full (they often do leave if that happens), but this hive still had plenty of room.

    That’s neat that your Grandad was a beekeeper! And that you are able to still be enjoying some of the honey that he had harvested. I am sorry to hear about his passing . . . it is always so hard to lose someone whom you love and are close to. Just from the bit you shared, it sounds like you have special memories of him which I am sure is a blessing!

  13. We have had some, Julianne. A couple of weeks ago we got around an inch! That really helped green up some of the grass, but it didn’t take long before it started turning brown again. We are so behind in rainfall where we live that it will take a whole lot of rain to recover . . . I read somewhere awhile back that at that time we needed between 13 and 16 inches. We did get around 3/10’s of an inch last night which should help the grass a bit again. And thankfully, other parts of Missouri have gotten quite a bit of rain over the past few weeks. Every little bit helps!

  14. I am, too, Ellen! And yes, it will. :)

  15. It is, Nabila! Well, the hive we took the split from swarmed again! This time a really small swarm . . . and I don’t think this one ever went back to the hive. Hopefully the hive will be over its swarm urge now, and then we can combine the two together again soon!

    Yes, it is!

  16. Welcome to my blog, Nikki, and thank you for your kind words about the dolls! I look forward to possibly sewing one sometime for one of your daughters. :) And I hope you enjoy your visits here!

  17. Hi Sarah,

    Beekeeping is something I've always thought I'd enjoy. I am hopeful that this winter, while we are hibernating under a blanket of snow, I will have an opportunity to do lots of research. Then, if it looks like a fit for me, maybe we will start with a few hives within the next couple years.

  18. I am sure you would enjoy beekeeping, Mrs. B! It is an involved process, but so fun and rewarding. Like you are planning to do, I spent one winter reading a lot about beekeeping and then that spring, we started with one hive. Now we have four!

    I hope you enjoy your research and will be able to find out if it would be a good fit for you. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I would be happy to answer them if I can. :)


Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)