alleyyooper
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Swarm collecting

My most favorite bee keeping activity pretty much is collecting swarms. I have learned a lot over the years and taught a lot of people about honey bees at the same time.
My first experience was at a fellow club members place in year 2 of bee keeping. He had called me up and said one of his hives had swarmed and if I wanted it to come over. I get there and see his truck back in the field where he keeps his bees behind a privatency fence that is really a wind block. I drive back there and he points up in a locus tree and says there is a second swarm if you want it but I will let you climb up and get it.
So I take the 5 gallon pail he gives me with a lid climb up the ladder, set the lid where I can get it quickly. Following his instructions I hold the pail under the swarm with one hand, grab the branch with the other and give it a good shake. Most of the bees went in the pail that I quickly Put the lid on. We loaded the already boxed swarm in my truck and the fresh caught one with a box of frames. I went home and dumped that swarm in the box.

My very first swarm catch.

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Of course that caused me to make 4 more hive bodies and 40 more frames to install foundation in so I could return his boxes and replace his frames and foundation.

This swarm we had been told had been there 3 days. The ladies husband wanted her to leave them be and see how long they would stay. But on day 3 she called me to come and get them. I used my box in a box bee vac to get them. I leave less bees bewildered that way. This comb was under the main cluster.

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I must mention that I live near two county lines and have small towns within 11 miles of me on either side. I have my name on a list of both county extensions offices, The USDA office list, animal control offices list the police dept for both counties and city's also the fire dept.
I was on a bee keepers supply list that kept a list for all the 48 states and some Canadian provinces, our regional club and all 3 of the near by area clubs.

This one was a challenge because the bees were in a thick spot so I had to get in the tree and vacuum them up. Glad I had learned early on to have a long suction hose.

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this one was really way up in a birch tree. belonged to another bee keeper that said he didn't want them because he didn't have the equipment.
He used a chain saw and cut the tree so we could bend it down low enough to get the bees.

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this one was way up in a tree so high I could not reach it. My friend Jim had told me of getting a swarm by shoot off the tree branch with a 12ga shot gun. I asked the owner of the tree if that would be ok and did he have a 12ga.. He did so I sat the hive body under the tree shot the branch off and it fell almost on top of the hive and the bees all went inside.

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This was a two part swarm mostly on the ground and they smelled the drawn comb and crawled right in the hive, I used my loppers to cut the tree branch that had a few and shook it into the hove too.

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I used to tell people that I only wore a T shirt and jean because the bees were not aggressive and couldn't sting when in a swarm because they were full of honey. Well this swarm got Kare to swat me up side the head on the way home and say stop telling people that. One had crawled up her pant leg and stung her, this was the second time she had bee stung like that. She also learned to always wear bands on her jeans.

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Random swarm pictures and some show why I used a bee vacuum to gather them.

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:D Al

alleyyooper
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Re: Swarm collecting

Here is another reason to use a bee vac. This swarm was on both sides of the fence and there was now way I could see of sweeping them in a box with out leavening a bunch. the second swarm was a huge one and again spread out so a bee vac was the only way to get them.
Yes I have about 40 questions when people call me wanting me to get a swarm. At first I would just go and it would turn out to be yellow jackets under their deck or in the ground some place. I started charging a service call waved if it was really honey bees or they had answered all the questions correctly.
One lady I asked how high up are they she replied I don't know. So I asked well could you reach up and touch them, she answered I think so. I ask how tall are you, answered about 5'7" I figure a reach of about 30 inches. Load my 8 foot ladder in the truck drive 45 minutes to get there and here is a bunch of bees going in and out of a hole in a tree about 12 feet up. That service call was not refunded.

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More random swarm pictures.

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The above swarm was one I caught when my oldest grand daughter came to visit. She had gotten stung at age 4 trying to pet one of granddads honey bees in the back yard but at age 12 stood under the swarm while the home owner lady would not come out of her house. Grand daughter was given 3 pounds of honey and pictures of her summer adventure when she went back to school.

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This one was about 35 feet up in a tree. Again I used the bee vac and I used my generator I take for many calls. Set a 10 foot stepladder in the back of a pick up truck taped my vac hose to a extendable 24 foot painters pole.

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Some of the low ones I just set a hive on a portable table and let them crawl in on their own while I talk to the home owners and spectators.

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:D Al

alleyyooper
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Re: Swarm collecting

Early one morning I get a call and it is the local Home Depot, they have a swarm in a tree in their parking lot. Had found my name on the internet. Took me 10 minutes to load my equipment after asking the 40 questions. Drove the 6 miles and there was the swarm as they had told me. Sat the bottom board with hive down under the branch and sat the inter cover close. By now I have gathered a croud of spectators standing about 30 feet away watching me. I shake the branch 99% of the bees go in the box 15 quick minutes and I am loading the hive in the truck. took me 45 minutes to answer all the questions every one had.

Couple years later I get a call from Atlanta Ga. Home office of Home Depot. They had me on their swarm recovery list for my area. They had a swarm of honey bees in the garden center part of the local store. Yes I would go get it. Arrive and see the bees were above and below the planks they set the display flowers on. Again it is bee vac time, but now I have the set up where I suck the bees right into their hive again I have spectators who asked about an hours worth of questions.

One other time Kare and I are going to Kroger's shopping. They have a bunch of carts blocking off a small tree in the parking lot. They have a swarm in the tree, go inside and asked if we could collect them. Of course you can come back in when you finish. I have my equipment in the truck from an aborted call when the swarm took off before I could get there. Collected the swarm and when back in to tell the manager we had them all. He gave us a $25.00 gift card, we also answered a thousand questions in the parking lot.

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I really believe over the years talking to people while collecting a swarm in a T shirt I have changed peoples mind on how dangerous honey bees are. Removed fear from their minds, will call a beekeeper to collect a swarm rather than grab a can of spray to kill them.

:D Al

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pomerinke
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Re: Swarm collecting

Those are some pretty awesome pictures Al!
I've never seen a swarm myself, though I do believe I've crashed a party some bees were having when I was younger. I was playing around at a park, and I ended up sliding down a steep hill. Eventually I crashed into a tree and ended up getting stung somewhere around 15-20 times.

It's good people are trying to find ways to save them instead of hitting them with bug spray. I think that is a big remnant of two movies released in the 70s/80s or so about killer bees and what not.
- For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create. -

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applestar
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Re: Swarm collecting

Yeah I loved the pictures and stories :-()

You are killing me here -- I'm super intrigued. We had a swarm in our front yard weeping cherry tree once. Too bad I wasn't more aware back then. I could have at least found out the phone numbers of the nearby farms -- there were several back then -- and it would have most likely turned out that they had swarmed from one of their bee hives.

By the time I was referred from number to number to call and tracked down a beekeeper that was willing to drive out from somewhere, and he arrived, the swarm had moved on.

I do like your 40 questions approach. :wink:
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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TheWaterbug
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Re: Swarm collecting

Jr. and I did our very first swarm capture last year, on Easter Sunday:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpOtw5oYCHA&t=51s

(apologies for the horrible camera angle; the GoPro was on my chest, and all the action happened above that)

An old high school friend facebooked me in a panic because she had "bees in her tree." We showed up, knocked them into a box, and left for a few hours. By evening all the bees were in the box, so I put a screen over the entrance and took them home. In the process I walked right through their living room with a box full of bees :D

They literally applauded as I left.

This colony is now my strongest, although they are a bit defensive for my tastes.
Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

imafan26
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Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Swarm collecting

The successful strong hives usually are a little more aggressive. Aggressive hives defend themselves better, so a little aggressiveness is not a bad thing. If a hive gets too aggressive the way to make them calmer is to replace the queen and get one that is bred to be more docile.

I actually worry more about the health of our hives when the bees are more lethargic. The hives we can enter without smoking are usually worrisome because they have been the weakest hives. Those hives get robbed by other bees and usually don't defend well against mites and little hive beetles. We even had a hive leave because it was chased out by ants.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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jal_ut
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Re: Swarm collecting

Thanks for sharing the pictures and stories.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

imafan26
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Re: Swarm collecting

It is swarm season now.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

BEEMAN
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Re: Swarm collecting

Love collecting swarms, but I have been down with back problems for the last six to seven weeks. Missed out on a lot of calls.

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jal_ut
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Re: Swarm collecting

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Nice big swarm on a fence line today.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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TheWaterbug
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Re: Swarm collecting

Here's an easy way to capture a ground-level swarm:

Sunset 23/USDA 11a, Elev. 783', Frost free since 8,000 BC. Plagued by squirrels, gophers, and peafowl, but coming to terms with it!

imafan26
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Re: Swarm collecting

This last winter was a hard one with all the rain. The bees did not have a lot of days to forage and they ate up most of the honey stores. The floods wiped out some of the nectar crops so beekeepers are now having to feed their hives.
We lost a hive that was struggling when it got robbed by the stronger hives. The remaining hives have been treated for varoa and are building. We hope to be able to split a couple of hives, requeen and replace the hives that we lost.

We have only gone after swarms that are in easy reach. You do have to get to them quickly while they are still looking for a home. Sometimes even after a swarm is captured, they don't want to stay and take off again. We try to use old comb and give them honey frames and later, a brood frame to give them a reason to stay. They don't like new plastic frames. We learned the hard way since the swarm has an old queen that has been stressed and starved before swarming, it is better to requeen with a mated gentle queen.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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