We've captured our first feral swarm! Have you ever seen on television a huge cluster of bees stuck to a tree branch? That's what we've captured and now have in our front yard! This will make an even ten hives, which is exhilarating considering we only had the one hive last year and we're growing and doing so well with the business start up. We're getting our official DBA license from the State of Michigan, and we've already got our business cards stocked and our information in with animal control, pest exterminators, and wildlife control!
Keith and I received a call last week, that a small mobile home park in Brighton had a swarm stuck in a tree. We were lucky that it was in a 6 foot crab apple tree, otherwise it would have been difficult to capture. We took an old hive body that we had leftover from our last years colony and were on our way. It was such a rush to see all of those little honey bee's there just enjoying their time, not bothering anyone. The residents of the Starlite Mobile Home Park said they have seen swarms around the park before and believe it was from an apiary that is stationed nearby but not well maintained. It is a wonderful feeling to see the bee's and to tell people about them and let them know they are not dangerous to you, they're not even agitated, a honey bee in a swarm of bee's is probably the most docile you will ever see a honey bee.
When a hive senses that it is getting near maximum capacity, meaning they have filled their allotted space, and must either expand or find a new larger place to dwell, they will create a queen cup out of wax and affix it to the bottom of a frame of wax or honey. A queen cup is just a different shaped cell that the current queen will drop an egg into a cell, and worker bees will move that egg into the queen cup and begin feeding it. The main difference between a standard female worker bee and the queen bee is the matter in which they are fed before reaching the pupal stage. The worker bee is fed with the correct combination of nectar, pollen, and honey, but for the queen, her diet will also consist of royal jelly. Once the queen is developed and ready to hatch, she will do so, and flee with a swarm, or a population of the bee's that abandon their current hive for a new queen, food source, and location.
Before that swarm can establish itself as a colony it must find a suitable food and water source and adequate living space. That in between period is when you will find that all of the bee's that left with that new queen will gorge themselves on honey, almost to the point where they could not support themselves by flight because they have added so much weight to their body in honey stores alone, and that distends their abdomens so they cannot sting. If you were a nomadic creature that had to leave your home, you would pack enough food for the trip wouldn't you? That's all the bee's are doing, and in doing so, they've made themselves more docile and less likely to be agitated by outside disturbances. You can stick your bare arm into a swarm of bee's and not be stung, just remember that!
We were getting a crowd around us to, and as soon as we cut the limb off the tree and shook them down, bee's were a-flying! It's a good feeling to see people your own age just standing there watching you save a hive of bee's from termination (The family wanted to burn them, which is not a good idea, they're an agricultural animal and provide you with every third bite of food.) After the swarm was in the hive body, we left it there to collect the last of the remaining bee's. After a bit of time they would all regroup and cluster around the queen, or in this place, prepare their new living space that we put the queen into.
On top of all that, the owner of the tree we cut the swarm from, is a fan of mead! A lot of people have heard of mead in passing, so it was also a prime time for us to network with people that are interested in trying our mead made from our own bee's honey! I can't wait to harvest honey stores off of the swarm we captured! Hooray swarms, from a beekeepers perspective it's just free bee's (Get it? Freebies!)
And if you see a swarm of bee's in a tree, remember pest control can't help you, but we can! Save the honeybee!