Result the bait hive enticed a big swarm into it and it took a few days from the first scout bees to them arriving on mass, seven days to be precise.
Monday the first couple of scout bees arrived at the hive and I took no great interest at this as this can be quite common but an hour later I noticed about a dozen and this got my attention as that was a reasonably rapid increase and at first thought things would advance at a pace.
Tuesday and the scouts returned and increased to about two dozen getting very excited checking all round the hive, hovering in front of the entrance and investigating the inside of the hive.
What the scouts are doing during this investigation and looking at the hive, well it’s not a hive to them it’s just a convenient potential nest site and could be any cavity. What they are doing is actually very calculated and deliberate looking for questions to a list of requirements they have.
They are looking at the height from the ground, not perfect in this case as they prefer something higher as it gives protection from bears.
They are calculating the size of the entrance not too large to cause a draught and hard to defend but not to small that it would cause congestion at busy times.
They are looking at the direction the entrance is facing and prefer south facing.
They are checking all round the nest site looking for any other entrances.
They are assessing if the cavity is dry
When they venture inside the potential nest site they are assessing the position of the entrance in relation to the cavity as they prefer a bottom entrance. Over a series of trips inside the hive they are calculating the volume of the cavity and they prefer a 40L cavity. To the bees this could be a reasonably long thin cavity as common with tree cavities but just as happy with a short fat cavity and just so happens a standard national brood box is approx 40L.
If the potential nest site ticks all or some of the boxes to the scout or scouts looking at the nest site they return to their original site or swarm and communicate the location of the site with the other scouts using the same bee dance as they use for locating forage and those scouts go to see for themselves but also may have been looking at a different nest site themselves in the opposite direction and so they communicate this to the other scouts and they go and check out that site. So the scouts are checking out each other’s potential nest sites and if one scout thinks the site chosen by the other scout is better than her site she will join forces and perform the same dance favouring the other site. This can go on for some time until hopefully the scouts are in agreement that they have found the best available nest site for them to swarm to. So the bees are communicating to one another and debating what is the best site to move to.
During the rest of Tuesday the scouts continued but increased to 30+ as more were starting to favour my bait hive and I then set up a time laps camera as I was not going to be at the garden all the time I wanted to try and catch the swarm arrive and at the time thought it looked imminent but nothing on Tuesday.
Wednesday started off the same but now perhaps 40+ scout bees at the hive but this time they were showing signs that they were guarding the hive. Not aggressive guarding but definitely bees hanging around the entrance gently challenging bees as they entered the hive. At approx 12.30 I noticed the hive go quiet for about 35-40 minutes and thought either the beekeeper has inspected and found the hive on the verge of swarming and performed an artificial swarm or the swarm is on its way as the scouts leave to guide the swarm to the new nest site. So camera ready looking up to the sky hoping to see this wonderful spectacle unfold in front of me and all that happened was over the next hour the scouts returned and built up to force once more. After this I had to go and do something away from the garden but was called by my good beekeeping neighbour Sara Ward informing me a swarm has been seen hovering over the school playground heading my way. I went back to the garden expecting to see the swarm but nothing just the same amount of scout bees.
I now think the swarm over the school could be the swarm that eventually moved into the bait hive and the bait hive going quiet was the time that colony swarmed but for some reason the swarm relocated when the scouts were at my bait hive.
Thursdays forecast was for heavy rain most of the day and boy were they right as I planned to move my boat that day and a long move with a couple of good friends Bill and Jude and we got pretty wet over the cause of the day. Thinking about it if the swarm was clustered in a tree or similar then it to would have had to encounter the rain but then the way they naturally cluster would cause some protection. One great thing about the European Honey Bee is it has developed coping strategies to deal with problems and swarms getting caught in bad weather is perhaps just one problem they have evolved to deal with providing the bad weather is not extreme.
Friday was going to be the day as I was convinced it was going to happen although in the past it has taken five days and this was day four but I thought the high numbers of scouts must be positive but once again it was a no the bees were just not ready.
Saturday was the same as I started to doubt if it was going to happen.
Sunday started the same as previous day’s loads of scouts at the hive and the guarding of the entrance. I set up the camera and went to check my bees. I thought I would check the hives at Brentf0rd first just as it could be rather embarrassing if the scouts turned out to be from one of my hives. I had just finished them and thankfully all behaving themselves when I got a message to call the house. It was my good friend Gus who owns the house and garden the bait hive is in rather worried as there are 1000’s of bees flying all round the garden. I shot round to catch the last of the bees landing on the hive marching in through the entrance and forming a large cluster under the hive. Even though I missed the arrival it was still a magical moment and thankfully had some of the action on camera and the time laps camera.
The first scout bees arriving at the hive
The swarm settling on the hive
Time laps of the whole event. You can see scouts at the entrance and at 35 seconds they start to reduce and by 50 seconds the hive is virtually quiet as the scouts have gone to collect and guide the swarm to the hive and a few seconds later the swarm arrives.
There is one problem with swarms and it’s you just don’t know what you are going to get regarding temperament and health but thankfully the bees seem rather nice as I have stood very close to the entrance and they have not bothered me and fly around me and a large swarm must indicate a healthy colony. I will let them stay in situ for a couple more days and then move them to one of my apiaries so they can be transferred into another hive and I can reset the bait hive and more importantly see what I have, a prime swarm with a marked or unmarked queen or a very big cast but more likely a prime swarm.
I don’t know if the swarm is from a wild colony or a managed one but if from a wild colony in another six days a few cast swarms could be about or there is always the chance and plenty of time of another big swarm from another colony 🙂