Wow a great result and real thrill to be at the garden at Brentford just as a swarm arrived and moved into a bait hive I set up just that very morning.
Standing in the centre of thousands of swarming bees is a wonderful experience and the noise they make something else.
I had been slow setting a bait hive this year and was thinking about giving it a miss but when a converted 14 x 12 BB that I had used to convert my TBH back to national hive suddenly became interesting to a few bees I thought a swarm could be close by so I moved the 14 x 12 BB to one side and set up a bait hive in its place with frames and starter strips to see what may happen.
It was pretty clear that these were not just a few bees checking out a box that smelt attractive and could hold some goodies but scouts on the lookout for a new home with typical scout bee activity, checking the entrance, all around the hive and investigating the interior, checking the size and to see if it’s a nice cosy space.
With the increasing number of scouts I knew my bait hive was gaining favour amongst the scouts over any other potential nest site. Scouts during swarming communicate between each other identifying various possible nest sites. They do this by performing the same beedance they do to identify new plants to forage. Each scout in turn visits these sites and if a scout favours one site they perform the same dance identifying that site. Eventually the vast majority agree and with the majority of scouts doing the same dance it triggers the swarm to move to the new location.
You get a good indication your bait hive has been chosen as all the scouts leave in a very short time indicating the scouts are going to collect the swarm and guide it to your bait hive. If the hive started to go quiet slowly with fewer bees at the entrance and eventually no bees then this could indicate a more favorable site has been discovered by the bees and slowly they are switching to that site, or someone has collected the swarm from a tree or wherever they were clustered. It is also possible the beekeeper has inspected the hive and found advanced queen cells and performed an artificial swarm.
So I was very pleased when I spotted the hive had suddenly gone quiet with no bees and I spent the next 15 minutes looking up into the sky and then I spotted this dark cloud of bees moving along the rooves of the houses towards the garden.
Well I thought how easy was that a nice big prime swarm that came to me and from the looks of it at this early stage very nice bees but the bees were determined to make me work a bit harder as I found this the following morning.
Don’t exactly know what happened here but I do remember seeing about five excitable bees low down on the stack as I was going home and although I looked at them I didn’t notice a queen but it was possible she never went into the hive and the bees left to be with her. I soon scooped them up and put them in the hive and they seemed to be very happy with many bees fanning at the entrance showing their nasonov gland guiding in any bees away from the entrance.
To help them settle in for the 2nd time I gave them a frame of honey and for a bit of security I fitted a small piece of queen excluder over the entrance for a couple of days until I could see a reasonable amount of pollen going into the hive.
Overall I feel very lucky to have been there at the right time and day and it’s been an ambition of mine to experience this for many years and now I want to do it again.
If interested to learn more about this fascinating part of the bees life then the book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D Seeley is the perfect book.
Two weeks after the swarm arrived at the bait hive I carried out my first inspection and the bees are just lovely. The queen was unmarked and going about her business calmly and efficiently with several frames of brood and eggs. Of the ten new foundationless frames all but the outer two were fully drawn with the most wonderful white wax. Without doubt you get the most wonderful white wax from swarms on foundationless frames and also very little drone comb compared to the normal 20%. I can now make arrangements to move them and if the emerging brood continues to be so calm I may move them again to one of my more public apiaries. They will also need a super very soon and even a 2nd BB if the queen continues to lay at the rate she is.