View Full Version : Swarm on the Ground

04-17-2010, 08:49 PM
I live outside of Richmond, Virginia and am entering my second year as a beekeeper.

Today, a friend called regarding a 'swarm' that they had in their backyard. I have never retrieved a swarm before, but was amped to get a shot at it so early.

On the phone, they mentioned that it was 'on the ground', but I figured (based on my reading and talking to other beekeeper's in the area) that they probably meant it was on a low hanging limb or 'close to the ground.'

When I arrived, I found that it was indeed right square on the ground. A pile of bees. After looking around, I noticed a hole with bees coming in and out of it some 50' up in the tree.

Not sure what to do, I took my Deep of foundation (I really do not have any spare drawn comb to use at this point) and placed it on the ground, with the front just a hair from the side of the bee mass. I then took a frame of honey and nectar (I stole one from my strong hive) and placed it a little off of center in the hive and stood back.

In seconds (literally) the bees started marching into the hive. First a few, and then by the droves. They were moving as a mass. This was about 6:50 PM. I had a dinner engagement with my wife at a friend's house, so I left the hive there and figured I would pick it up after our get together.

Now to the problem. When I arrived back (circa 9:30 PM), probably about 2/3's of the bees had gone into the hive. A smaller mass still existed (what appeared to me to be the 'other side' of the bee mass from the edge of the hive body). A few bees were all bunched up between the ground and the edge of the bottom board.

I am not sure what is going on. I left the hive and will check back tomorrow. I played with the idea of trying to scoop the remaining bees up and placing them in the hive (would this have been a bad idea?)

Why didn't the other bees go in? Wouldn't all of the bees stay with the queen (i.e. if she is outside, why didn't the rest return to her, or if she went in, whey didn't that mass go join her?)

Any suggestions on a plan of attack would be appreciated.

Michael Bush
04-17-2010, 09:58 PM
I'd move the hive to the clump of bees, as you did the first time, so that the clump is touching the ramp or the bottom board. They will smell the others and move in. I've done what you did several times with good success. I think it's the best solution to swarms on the ground. I also add some lemongrass oil (a q tip dipped in it) and sometimes some queen juice (old queens in a jar of alcohol and dip a q tip in that).

04-18-2010, 03:54 AM
A swarm on the ground often indicates that a clipped queen was ejected by a daughter raised in the hive. The old girl can't fly well and ended up on the ground rather then in a bush or nearby tree. The swarm follow her.

Now, The small clump of bees remaining could be kept in that spot after the queen spent some time there. They get confused and think she is still there from the smell that lingers.

The same thing happens when a swarm is in a tree and after the queen and most of the swarm is boxed. Returning scouts and stragglers in the air often go back to the spot on the tree or bush where the queen spent some time. After catching most of the swarm, I usually smoke the heck out of the old swarm location just to remove the scent of the queen . That forces the late bees to keep flying around until they catch a whiff of the rest of the swarm and join them in the box.

04-18-2010, 05:18 AM
Many thanks for your replies. I will be heading back out there shortly to do just that.

I must say that I have never heard or read anything about 'queen juice'. I look forward to reading more about that later today (at which time, hopefully, I will have a swarm under my belt!)

04-18-2010, 05:42 AM
Queen juice is the pheremones of a queen. Your old queens are not a total loss when you requeen. Take the old girl and sqash her in a vial of alcohol as Michael Bush suggested. Lemongrass oil is nothing compared to real queen juice. That is why you do not squash the old queen in the hive when you requeen. Her scent would still be in the hive. If you ever have opportunity to buy a battery of queens, set it outside and watch how many workers flock to the queens. It is like a girls lockerroom with windows. Everybody is gettin up close! All those hormones are going crazy!

Michael Bush
04-18-2010, 07:40 AM
I don't squish. I just drop them in the jar. They curl right up dead on contact with the alcohol.

Beaver Dam
04-18-2010, 05:04 PM
Michael, please explane in futher detail what and how queen juice is made. How much alc to how many queens. Thanks Beaver Dam.

04-18-2010, 08:43 PM
Ok, Mr Bush's recomendation was spot on, but my execution thereof was a bit lacking, it would appear.

I returned this morning and moved the box closer, right beside the smaller clump of bees on the ground. Within moments, several bees came out and started fanning AWAY from the hive! Immediately, bees started to pour out of my hive!!!

I was a bit out of sorts. I wasn't sure what was going on, but figured one possibility was that the scouts had found a good home and everyone was getting ready to leave.

So, I grabbed and empty deep and placed it right square on top of the smaller clump. I then took the hive body with comb/bees and placed it on top of that (one imrie shim between both of them, to provide egress.)

I came back several hours later, hoping that they would be all (or mostly) up in the top deep with the honey/comb. Instead, about 80% of them had amassed on the side of my EMPTY super (inside!). They were no more closer to getting into the top deep then they had been this morning (in fact, it looked like some from the top deep had moved down too!)

I decided to go back to Mr Bush's method, so I removed the bottom deep (with bees hanging all over it) and reset up my hive. After the bottom board was on, I opened it up and shook the large mass on the bottom super into my hive. I then placed the lip of the landing board up against the small mass of bees left.

To my glee, they started fanning with their faces FACING the hive and the small group started to make its way over. Finally, this evening, I retrieved the hive, hearing a light buzz within and seeing no bees outside of the hive.

This was very exciting. Now, I have to figure out what to do next!

Michael Bush
04-19-2010, 07:04 AM
If they all started moving out, I'm betting the queen was in that clump... putting the box on top was spot on.

As far as queen juice. Just drop all your old queens in a jar of alcohol. The amount is irelevant. As long as there is enough to cover the queens. The number of queens should increase over the years (I have about a ten year accumulation) but any number is helpful.