Hooray--It's Swarm Season!
Typically swarms start in the late spring and are based on a combination of several factors that include overcrowding, where the hive is
full of honeycomb containing nectar and brood eggs; or an old queen that isn’t laying enough eggs; panic swarms that could be triggered by lack of foraging material (i.e. food) and warm weather after a wet winter can all trigger swarms. Spring swarms are typically bigger; about 3-5 pounds (football to basketball size) and can be super special...like this one shaped as a heart we got from a local winery.
Here on the California Central Coast in and around San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, we see swarms beginning in March and running thru July. We’ve even had very late swarms this past November, which were most likely due to the very dry summer and fall, so the girls were hungry and thirsty and desperate to relocate. Regardless, we are always ready with gear and our trusty ’66 Ford F250 (aka--Lola Mae).
Swarm Team in Action
For us, we love swarms and use them to bolster our various apiaries around the county. Here’s a look at the process on one of our recent swarm removals. This one was called in from a group of Frisbee Golfers at a local park. We got the call and assembled our tools including our temporary relocation Nuc (pronounced "Nuke," which is a heavy wax-cardboard hive with 5 frames), and our “custom” butterfly net we’ve re-purposed to help us catch swarms that are high up. We obviously also have our hats with a net, white long-sleeve shirt and gloves and large pruning shears to cut branches. For the record we don’t typically use any smoke. In this case, the swarm was bigger than a football (at least 3 pounds) and up about 10 feet above the ground:
You can see that the swarm didn’t go too far from their original hive (which is typical of an early-season swarm):
Since Martha was on her own, there aren’t any action shots of her scooping the hive into the net. In this case, she simply place the net close to the Swarm Nuc ("Nuke") and the bees crawled in on their own (lured in part by some honeycomb already in place on the frames):
Once we were positive the queen was inside (a sure sign since most of the bees all went quickly into the swarm box), the entry hole was closed off and we took them off to their new Apiary at the Zoo To You Education Center. There the bees were transferred from the Swarm Nuc to the new hive:
Since there wasn’t any new comb built, we fed the girls some sugar water and gave them some recent honey-filled comb (in the cans seeping thru a fabric covered hole…like a hummingbird feeder):
Now the hives are very active and very healthy. And one of the bonuses for the girls at Zoo to You is the fact that the zoo blasts music on outdoor speakers to help keep the animals company including this crazy guy:
Call us direct on the swarm hotline at 805 Four-Two-Three- Six529. (Gotta keep the bots out of our hair). Or shoot us an email!
We have a ton of pictures documenting our various activities capturing swarms, helping the bees and making and selling our honey. Take a look at our Facebook Albums and our Instagram account. Let us know what you think.