Unexpected Swarms

I do a lot of things outside beekeeping. I read a lot of bee books, I taunt my husband mercilessly, and I fiddle with art. For the past 6 months, I have been investing in a tattoo that covers the entirety of my back. It is a dragon with wolves running underneath. Each of my appointments starts in the middle of the day and lasts for several hours. (I have plans for a bee tattoo!)

Imagine my surprise when I came home from my appointment earlier than expected to find one of my swarm traps a-buzz. A-buzz a lot.

This swarm trap is on the other side of my apiary privacy fence. It’s a little higher than 6 feet and strapped onto a tree. It’s been there for a year and has only attracted attention once. I split that hive before they could swarm, but it was nice to know it was catching someone’s attention! Needless to say, seeing bees in it was a shock. I came closer, watched them for a bit, and took the video above. I didn’t see any pollen coming in, so they must have just arrived before I came in. I was so excited! I texted my friends and family that I had a new hive. I vowed to let them be for several days to let them get established.

Of course my husband texts back immediately, “WHO DID THAT!??!”

He wasn’t wrong to ask. I’ve been very on top of my bees this year – I didn’t have any desire to repeat 2020. I broke an ankle during spring and was unable to maintain my hives. I had a LOT of swarms and I lost a couple of hives to pests. Damn you small hive beetles!!!

You see, I had installed a new Saskatraz queen 4 weeks ago. In my experience, they tend to be rather swarmy and it looked like this queen was going to be true to form. I had done an inspection the previous weekend and noticed what looked like it could be a queen cell. Seeing the hive still had a couple of frames to draw out, I reorganized their frames and added another box. I destroyed that queen cell.

That didn’t work out so great.

My hives all have names because it makes it easier to talk about them. I threw on my veil, grabbed my hive tool, and ran to The Red Queen’s hive. I searched each frame carefully, looking for the white dot that would mark her and for fresh eggs. Eggs that look like standing grains of rice mean that a queen has laid them within three days. Eggs were seen, the queen was not. I did find 4 queen cells, however. Each one had a larva and royal jelly in it. Guess my bees didn’t listen to me last weekend.

At least I got to keep The Red Queen right?

On my lunch break the following day, I went outside to peak at them through the fence. Hmm. I didn’t see any movement. Not a single bee. What was going on? There was a literal FLURRY of activity yesterday! Of course I texted my husband near to tears. Ever the supportive man, he advised me to check on The Red Queen’s hive. They could swarm back into their hive. It’s happened before and it was very possible that yesterday’s swarm was a practice swarm. Maybe I caught them at the exact right moment.

Bees are gonna be, y’know?

I found her. I FOUND HER!!!

Into a small 5-frame nucleus hive she went, while I left two queen cells in her old home.

And now, we have yet another hive…

No one told me bees were like Pringles – You can’t just have one.

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