All week the front of Beatrix had been covered with bees, even when temperatures were not high enough to expect such bearding. A sign that swarming was in her future. Finally on Saturday, just as we were about to have a lunch delayed by morning chores, we spotted bees swirling around Beatrix and her face clear. As the air about her emptied and a lighter covering of bees reappeared on her face we looked with anticipation towards our scion and found it devoid of bees.

Abandoning our lunch we went out to try finding the bivouacked bees and discovered a large cluster deep in thicket and high in tree. As when we caught our last swarm we lopped and sawed a path to the base of the tree. Reluctant to try reaching them by ladder we hastily improvised a kind of Steinkraus-Morse swarm catcher. Drilling a hole in the bottom center of a five-gallon bucket we screwed in the threaded end of a telescoping pole we had obtained to change inaccessible light bulbs. We screwed one of the bulb changing attachments inside the bucket. Not the most rigid connection but it served.

After setting up a two-story nuc1 minus the outer cover under the tree and extending the pole we began the cycle of:

  • Raise the bucket towards the cluster of bees.

  • Cover the cluster with the bucket.

  • Sharply lift the bucket to strike the branch, causing the cluster to fall in.

  • Pull back the pole.2

  • Pour bees from the bucket onto the inner cover.

  • Watch them scurry in through the hole.

Some bees took flight rather than settle into the bucket but the recoalescing cluster was smaller each iteration until eventually it had insufficient mass to fall in the bucket. Dislodging it just shook all the bees into flight. Leaving them to find their own way to the nuc, where bees were fanning, we then took the triumphant photo shown and retired for a very much further delayed lunch.

There remained the task of moving the nuc stack to the apiary. The usual procedure for moving a caught swarm would be to wait until dusk when all the bees were within, seal the entrance, strap the nuc/hive parts together, and just carry the box off to its new location. Unfortunately we were quite exhausted from our exertions on a hot day with empty stomachs and with dusk coming late. Tired, sleepy beekeepers moving a well-populated stack of nuc bodies along uneven ground in the dark seemed unwise. Instead we decided to leave them overnight and get up early to move them upon our waking, not delaying for breakfast or ought else. We added another nuc body atop the inner cover and placed a jar of syrup within it to keep them occupied.

Unfortunately the bees had gotten up earlier and more than a few were already flying about. We could have proceeded and left the fliers to fend for themselves but instead we delayed until the rains came that evening to drive all the bees within. We were less tired but the stack was taller than before due to the feeder and rain was falling. It still seemed unwise to move them just then but we did tape some screen over the entrance to contain the bees without suffocating them until we could move them at our leisure.

The next morning, not too early and after breakfast, we found the confined bees checking out the screen, eager to start their work. We did the requisite strapping together of nuc parts and were able to carefully slide the stack onto our garden cart, which we then pulled to the hive stand in the apiary, trying not to tilt the cart too much. Lifting the stack onto the stand, we unstrapped, unscreened, and dropped a clump of grass to obscure the entrance and encourage reorientation, just in case any had already imprinted on the old location.

And so Cerys has joined Angharad and Blodwyn.


1The swarm seemed much too large for a single nuc body.
2Lifting the bucket was easy but when lowering it the other end of the pole kept finding branches on which to catch and interfere with emptying the bucket. So while one of us did the bee collecting the other kept trimming away the obstacles.