Had my first swarm today (second bee season), and I have a question. They swarmed to small scrub tree in the horse pasture. They were clustered on a small branch with an even smaller branch from another limb in the middle. When I cut them out of the tree a small clump broke loose (disloged by the crossing branch) and fell to the ground. I moved the remaining bees (a little bit larger than the size of a football) into two deeps. The boxes were set up only about 20 feet away from where I cut the swarm out of the tree. Not sure if I got the queen, I watched for about an hour as the bees I knocked to the ground circled the swarm tree and then re-clustered into a baseball sized lump. This I successfully cut out without knocking any loose. I placed it in front of the hive and watched as they all calmly marched inside to join the rest of the bees. Has anybody ever had something like this happen? Did I knock the queen off accidently and then have the remaining bees cluster around her or did they just return out of instinct? All seems well at this point.
>or did they just return out of instinct?
Yes. They are in the clustering mode. When they get dislodged or scouts come back from searching for a place to call home and the swarm is gone they will form a cluster. It does not mean that that the queen is in the center, it is a possibility, but not a sure thing. Basically they are lost until they can get wind of the scent being fanned by the swarm.
A better guage that the queen is in the small cluster on the ground is that the rest of the bees will go back to her leaving your box. Sometimes it is to bring her to the new hive. They can, and will, do a great many things and not always what you want.
I agree with Bullseye on all counts. Sometimes you get the queen and they still go back to the branch and sometimes you don't get the queen but she comes to the hive. They are trying to sort it out by pheromones and there are a lot left on the branch and lot being given off by all the bees.
In they end they do what they want, but if you keep putting them in the box, they usually eventually stay.
So far so good. They seem content inside the hive. The temperature dropped a little (high in the low 60's today) and we've had light rain for the last 12 hours. I am feeding them, but don't know if that is required or not. Just thought what the heck, it can't hurt. My wife got some great pictures of the whole thing, just wish I new how to post them.