Saturday, April 10, 2010


So . . . it's been 2 weeks today since the bees arrived and I set up the 2 hives, and today I learned another valuable lesson - bees don't always do what the beekeeping books say they should be doing!

So much has happened in the past 2 weeks I can't seem to keep up with it! It was two Saturdays ago that I went with David to pick up the bees from Bob and bring them back to their new home. Then last Saturday, I opened the hives for the first time and took a tentative peek inside to see how things were going. Looked good to me, although I though I might have seen a couple of queen cells on one of the frames. Thursday Jeff the bee inspector came and we spent an hour going through the hives and checking things out. Sure enough - there were 4 queen cells, but we cut them out and thought things were OK. Put the honey supers on both hives and patted myself on the back for how smoothly things were going.

Big mistake. At 2:00 th
is afternoon I was in Target shopping when I got a frantic phone call from hubby saying there was a "tornado" of bees coming out of one of my hives. Not good. I rushed home to find that about half of the girls from the blue box had made a very pretty, but not so easily reachable swarm about 20 feet up in a live oak tree in the front yard. We tried the regular ladder. We tried a neighbor's roofing ladder. We tried a combination of roofing ladder and pole saw. Then I realized there was just no way to reach the swarm and cut the limb without either having the whole limb come crashing to the ground or ending up in the emergency room with a broken something, or both.

So . . . as I sat on the ground watching my bees hanging from the tree, I had a thought. If it's not possible to bring the bees down to a container, why not bring the container up to the bees? A few minutes later, I had a 5 gallon plastic bucket attached to a long bamboo pole with duct tape.

My friend Garrett McCampbell came over to help, and he and I held the bottom of the pole together and guided it up slowly until it was just under the blob of bees. Then we whacked the tree limb with the bucket and ended up with a bucket o' bees, and a whole bunch of really mad bees raining down on our heads. We slowly lowered the bucket to the ground and dumped
the ones we caught into Garrett's hive, then went up for another bucket full. Five tries later, we located the queen and put her into the hive! Like magic, the other bees instantly recognized that she was present, and within 30 minutes every one of them had gone into the box to be with her.

David Hall, my bee mentor, showed up about 6:00 with a hastily assembled nuc box and all of his gear (he SO deserves a trophy or something for all of the help he's given me in the past 2 weeks) and about an hour later we had transferred all the bees from Garrett's hive into the nuc box, added a frame of brood from the
original hive, put on a lid and feeder, and set the box up beside the other 2 hives.

Which just goes to show you that you have to be VERY careful what you wish for - because didn't I just say to somebody recently that I couldn't wait to get some more hives?!


  1. I am totally love this adventure of bees. You solution to getting them down was so inventive (any stings?). So you are on the ground and you can see the queen from there. She is bigger I know, but is there more activity around her or what? Congrats Mama are 3floridaqueenbees now.

  2. So... I'm confused. How do you scoop bees into a bucket? And why don't they fly out? Did you have to put anything in the bucket to intice them? And what's a nuc box? So does this mean you spread out the queens among more hives? Take baby steps with your uneducated readers, dearest aunt!

  3. Sorry Kristen!! I'll try and do a better job of explaining! A hive usually swarms when it gets too crowded for some reason. When that happens, the colony produces a new queen from one of the eggs in the hive. A couple of days before the new queen hatches the old queen and half the hive take off and find a new home. While looking for said new home they temporarily (overnight, or maybe even a couple of days) hang out (literally) in a place where they can keep the queen warm and safe while scouts are out searching for a new home. If you're lucky enough to find them while they're in the temporary location, you can try to capture them and put them in a box. If so, you've just doubled your bee colonies - for free.

    While the swarm is hanging out in their temporary location, it's sort of like a basket-ball sized "blob" dangling from a tree limb at the top. They're all hanging onto each other with the queen somewhere in the center of the blob. And they all want to be where the queen is - wherever that is. When I bumped the limb with the bucket, the blob (or most of the blob) fell off the limb and into the bucket. Did I mention that the blob is heavy? We carefully lowered the bucket o' bees and actually poured them into the box on the ground. Some of them did fly off and back into the tree - because we didn't manage to catch the queen on the first bump. On bump # 5 we got her. Once she was in the box, the others obediently followed her scent and went into the box.

    A nuc box is a small hive, which I'm using as a temporary home for swarm I captured. In a couple of weeks, after they've settled in and begun to build up a store of beeswax, eggs, pollen and nectar, I'll move them into their very own regular-sized hive where they will (if all goes well) grow into their own self-sufficient colony.

    I hope that helps a little!

  4. Becky - no, amazingly enough I got no stings from the capture, although my friend Garrett did get one and I received one "gift" from them the next day when I attempted to change their empty jar of sugar-water for a full one. The queen - we couldn't see her from the ground at all, but we knew she was still on the tree because the others will cluster around her to protect her (See comment above). As long as there were still bees on the tree limb, we knew we hadn't yet captured her and kept going back for more. On bucket #5 of bees, we actually looked in and spotted her (she's longer than the others) and quickly put her into the box and closed the lid. She has some pretty powerful pheromones, so the others just followed her scent and went into the box after her. Long live the queen!