Monday, May 17, 2010


"If you want honey you have to be
 prepared to be stung" Rosanne Daryl Thomas

This link has the amazing photo-shot that Matt did of the swarm capturing day 

Sunday afternoon May 16th I got the call. We had a swarm of bees at the Algarden. I was so excited and happy that this happened this year that I have gotten to know and learn more about the bees to feel comfortable dealing with a swarm and not last year when I would had just freaked out.

Swarms happen because the hive population gets too big and can no longer support all of its members in one hive. The queen then decides to make a new queen and half of the bee population fly off with her in search of a new home. The queen is at the center of this swarm, the worker bees are holding on to each other and protecting their queen while they send out scouts to look for a suitable new home. In the wild this would be something like an empty log but in the city this could be someones basement or walls so it is very important to prevent swarms in an urban setting.

Time was of the essence, I needed to get there and capture the bees into a new box before they migrated to a new location. Unfortunately I was on the opposite side of SF during bay to brakers. Agr I was never so agitated by the endless drunk Elvis', Waldo's and Gorilla's o yeah and the Avatar's-there were a lot of those. Get out of my way Fruit loops I got bees to tend.

I finally made it and there were 2 hives on the apricot tree. I circled them so you can easily spot them. I had to get up there with a ladder, cut the branch and bring that over to the new box hive.

We were all very excited about the action, but I think Kitty was the most, he did not blinked and he was all over the action, even climbing on the roof to get a better view - I love this cat.

I only had one extra box, but since there were two hives we had to improvise another one to place the second hive.

Check out Kitty -meow

I called up Andreas and Amanda because they had been interested on learning more about the bees and want to get their own hive. Amanda got to try out her new cover. I was really glad to have some help and Andreas took all this pictures. Matt and Jane were also there helping out.

Bees are really mellow when they are swarming because they are focusing their pheromones  (the chemical they emit when they sense danger that warns other bees) on following the queen. I got up there and was able to hold the swarm with my bare hands. They are warm and fuzzy :)
I communicated my intentions to them so they knew what I was about to do. I learned this at my bee communication class at the Melissa garden.

The first swarm was easy because it was in a small branch. But the second swarm was a little harder because the branch was thicker and heavier. As I cut the branch a bunch of bees fell to the ground. Next time I will be more prepared with a box below in case this happens.

But there were still thousands of them attached to the branch.

How cool is that?

I jerked the branch in top of the box and they all fell into it

Welcome home little ones. I promise to do the best I can to take care of you 

I tried to find the queen but as usual I did not.

As we set the bees on the box, a third swarm got formed on the tree from the bees that fell of to the ground so I had to go up on the tree again to collect them. Except this time they were attached to a main branch that I could not cut. I had to gently brush them into a container, but they did not liked that - AT ALL. Up to this point I was not wearing my right glove so I could touch the bees and feel them. They were upset with the brushing and went straight for my hand. I got stung a few times and Amanda who was below me holding the ladder got attacked too. I'm guessing the queen was in that last swarm formation and as I brush them I touched the queen which made them really mad. I transfered those bees to the box and I think the queen was there so they calmed down and slowly they all went into the box.

Wow, that was exciting!!!!
Bee tending 101 for Amanda 

We had to move three swarms but really it was just one big one, probably what happened was that the queen flew to different spots and the bees were following and congregating around her scent. Eventually the bees on the second box went into the other box following the queen pheromones so we had just one box of bees.  

I added the rest of the empty frames to the box, one frame of capped honey from the other hive so they would have some food to get started and filled the feeder with sugar water. I placed containers with water at the base of the table legs to prevent ants from climbing into the hive. I covered it after most of the bees went in following the queen, and here it is our new hive. Mission accomplished!

Today I have a very swollen hand, that makes it hard to write this, and a huge sense of accomplishment for being able to tend to my swarm and provide them with a new home.

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