First Swarm of 2023

My hives had their first swarm of the year this week, on Tuesday, April 11. We’ve had 80 F temperatures this week, and I happened to be in the bee yard while it was happening, which is always fun. Bees flying everyone, gathering at the entrance, and making their way to wherever the queen decided to land. In this case, the bees landed on a nearby fence post.

Capturing a swarm like this is tricky. As you can see in the picture the bees are all around the post and behind the wires. Capturing the queen is difficult, and unless you do the worker bees will simply return to the post.

One way is to remove the wired fence so you can more easily reach the bees. I thought about doing this, but it would take some work and I didn’t really have time for it.

So while I did tried a couple to get the swarm into a box a few times, it was to no avail. It was frustrating after a while, and I finally gave up.

Another beekeeper later told me that the bees, and especially the queen, loves drawn comb. So if you hold drawn comb next the swarm the bees will climb all over it. Once you get the queen to climb aboard, the rest of the bees will follow.

It was a shame I didn’t learn this beforehand, as the swarm was gone the next morning. Fortunately my area is a bit rural, so they are probably in some tree somewhere.

I would really like to try the comb idea, so perhaps there will be another swarm in my future. It was a warm winter, and the bees seem like they are definitely gearing up.

Even though I didn’t capture the swarm, I realized that I had a hive full of queen cells waiting for me. The hive overwintered with four medium boxes, and it was the only hive where I didn’t reverse the boxes a few weeks earlier. I was originally planning to check the hives in the morning, but my notes were a mess so I spent a little time organizing them instead of inspecting hives.

In the bee yard, I found a number of queen cells, and reduced the hive to two medium boxes, while making three new nucs. You can see the original hive (on the right) and the three nucs (on the left) in the below picture. I had a couple extra boxes and comb so I gave two of the nucs a little extra comb as some additional food and space to keep the queen cells warm.

A swarm cell typically takes another week or so for the queen to emerge (she need ~16 days total), followed by a week or so to get mated, so the new queen should be laying in roughly three weeks. So I will check them again the first week of May.

May you prosper and find honey.

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