The swarm we caught in early May was doing great. Even on the day when we captured them, there were too many bees for the 5-frame nuc box that I put them in. Luckily Woods Beekeeping Supply had weekday hours; new equipment was hurriedly bought, painted, and after the requisite amount of time for the paint fumes to dissipate, the swarm was housed in a 10-frame deep hive body.
In fact, the swarm was doing so good I decided to throw some honey supers on them instead of a second deep and, as I thought, they started filling them rapidly. Our full-sized, overwintered colonies aren’t putting anything away in their supers, so my plan was to leave the swarm colony in a single deep and just keep adding supers. I’d decide their ultimate fate at a later date…
Well, timing is everything in proper bee management. 10:30 on Tuesday morning my phone rang with a call from my neighbor: “Your bees are at it again. They’re in the same tree as last time, but higher up.” I swear I was going to add extra supers that night, but the girls just couldn’t be bothered to wait. I left work and called a friend to help me out, figuring it would be a 15-20 minute operation like the last time.
No such luck.
The cluster was a good 25-30 feet in the air, in the branches of a spruce tree. Even with my extension ladder fully extended, I wasn’t going to be able to get close enough. What to do, what to do….
My fellow swarm-battler, Dan, came up with the bright idea to connect a bunch of poles together with a bucket on the end. Luckily I had just the thing: three 10’ sections of 3/4” aluminum conduit. Dan taped the poles together with duct tape and affixed the bucket to the end. It was still too short to reach, so we had to get up about 10’ high on the ladder. The plan was then to just thrust the bucket at the swarm and hope the majority of them would land inside.
Of course we couldn’t actually see the cluster once we were on the ladder due to the many branches in our line of sight, not to mention the bright afternoon sun blazing straight into my eyes like a laser. Oh, and the stinging sweat pouring into my eyes didn’t help either. We made four attempts to dislodge the cluster. The pole was impossible to use with any precision due to the flexibility of the aluminum and the amount of weight at the top. Ultimately I’d say we got about half of them. We both had to return to work and I felt we were flirting with broken bones and heat stroke as it was.
The bees we did manage to capture are now residing in a 5-frame nuc box. I added a frame of honey, a frame of pollen, a frame of brood (including a queen cell), and two frames of foundation. Hopefully we got the queen, but if not the queen cell should be a nice insurance policy.
Successfully catching a swarm is about the most fun you can have in beekeeping in my opinion, but I felt like a real jerk leaving the rest of those bees up in that tree yesterday.