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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I thought it might be fun to document my my season catching swarms on this forum. I’ll make this an open log and add entries throughout the season.
April 6 - As I mentioned in a separate post, I thought I had my first swarm on April 1. That turned out to be an April fools joke - just very heavy scouting. That scouting has persisted for a week now, but no swarm has arrived.

Today I took a walk around the neighborhood with my wife and son. Our route took us past my closest 2 traps which are not actually on my property. The fist one appears to be occupied. Lots of bees coming and going. This activity is markedly different from the intense examination behavior at the traps at my house.

Because this trap is so close to my house, maybe half a mile, I am planning to bring it home this evening. I want to give the bees as little time to orient on that spot as possible. I’d also like to free up the trap and redeploy it.
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Further along our walk we came to our most famous neighborhood bee tree. This is a poor cavity as far as my human expertise goes. It is a mostly dead tree cut off at about 13 feet up. This appears to leave a pretty good size hole in the top of the cavity. There must be some other really nice attributes to this space, because bees keep moving in. It was a new swarm last spring, which did not survive the winter. Today another swarm is there. Judging from the traffic this is a large swarm.

I had placed a trap nearby about 100 feet away, but on the tree line at the end of a power line park that runs for miles, in hopes that my box would be more attractive than the tree. While I did see a scout be at my box, it was obviously not preferred by the swarm in the tree.

Another beekeeper had stapled his laminated business card to the bee tree. I guess I have some competition. I assume it was also the same guy that also set a swarm trap within about five feet of the bee tree. That trap was getting a fair amount of scout traffic. This trap is just a standard 5 frame nuc, so now I’m interested to see whether he gets anything in that small trap, or whether my double deep 5 frame box nearby gets one sooner.

So the swarm season has officially started. Last year I had my first call on April 9. I think I had 6 swarm calls before I had my first trapped swarm. I expected again to receive a swarm call before ever finding an occupied trap, so I really was surprised to see my trap and the bee tree occupied.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
April 7 - I have been fooled again by heavy scouting. My trap from yesterday did not have a swarm in it. Luckily I checked as soon as I got it home last night, so I was ready to have it back in the tree before the scouts realized it was ever gone.

I also got a call to do a cutout from under the eves on a house. It was a 40 minute drive each way and took 7 hours total. I won’t say it was pretty with 17 stings and honey raining down on me. But I did get all the bees out. The space included a very nice 3/4 inch wide crevice between 2 beams. This is, of course where the bees ran to hide. Getting them out would have been impossible without the Robovac that I built over the winter. This was the first time using it. I need a better seal between layers, because I was unable to get suction without taping all the way around the screen layer. I walked away with a bucket of honey, a bucket of old, black come for my bait hives, 5 nice frames of mostly capped brood, and a box of bees.I’ll have to wait and see if I have the queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
April 9 - Okay, the swarm season is officially here. Same date as last year, by the way. I got my first real swarm call this evening after sunset.

I’ve had some crazy swarm catching experiences after dark. The bees are all disoriented, half asleep, and probably too cold to fly. They end up crawling around in all directions if they don’t shake right into the box. None of their buddies are fanning nasonov, so its like hearding cats.

None of this was a problem with this swarm, which was in a tight ball at the end of a thin branch. It was up 15 feet or so, but only a few feet above a roof. I put a 5 gallon bucket onto the ball and snipped the branch. Not a single bee even broke cluster, nor did they when I dumped them into the hive box at home. Possibly my easiest swarm grab yet.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
April 13 - After 13 days of heavy scouting at the trap right in my new yard, a swarm appears to have arrived. I thought the scouting was particularly heavy and early this morning, but have been wary about getting too excepted - having already waited so long.

I left after lunch to check some other traps. I was only gone an hour. Sadly that was enough to miss the arrival. Here’s what it looked like when I got home.
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By the way I am pretty sure these are not my bees. I did am inspection yesterday and found that my hive has plenty of space to grow. I have also been watching the scouts. They were flying away, not heading back to my existing hive.

I have another trap set within sight of this one - only about 10 yards away. It has also has heavy scouting traffic, and I have wondered whether it could be the same swarm investigating both traps. The other trap still has plenty of scouts, so hopefully that one works out too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
April 14 - one of the last traps I placed was at my daughter’s friend’s house. The friend texted my daughter on the 12th to say that the bees had arrived. Because both my daughter and her friend are teenagers, it was impossible to learn what she meant by that. From the level of excitement, I figured it was likely a few scout bees. This evening I went over to see for myself. The box was buzzing loudly and it’s heavy. Seems like a pretty big swarm. I’ll take a look tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
April 15 - I got a call from a couple that had been trying for 2 days to coax a swarm to leave their yard. They tried all kinds of herbal repellants, and eventually decided to call a beekeeper. I went over and collected most of the bees from one of those viney arbors in about 15 minutes, but because there were so many bees tangled in the vines and buzzing around, and because the place was less than 2 miles from my house, i decided to leave the box and come back later. When I returned after dusk, all of the bees were in the box. Easy.

This swarm is about the size of a softball, so it’s probably going to need some help to building up. The queen may not even be mated.
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Update on the 4/14 trap catch. The swarm turned out to be smaller than I expected. It is certainly descent-sized, but the weight I was feeling was due largely to the 2 bait frames being mostly full of nectar.

I transferred the bees into a regular 10 frame box this morning. This may have been a mistake. The bees were especially disoriented and took a long time settling back into the box. I was worried that many of them might drift to nearby colonies. I also worried that the queen had flown out, because I had a good size cluster on the fence above the box. Placing the bait frame (I had removed for use in resetting the trap) next to the box helped to draw the bees down and then into the box. After 30 minutes everything looked back to normal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
April 16 - I sometimes have a hard time believing that the scouts at the traps in my yard are not my own bees. My bees are not ready to swarm, but maybe they are just curious - like how they are always flying into my garage as soon as I open the door. Well, I have a hive box set as a swarm trap on my roof. It has been getting heavy scouting traffic for a couple of weeks. 2 days ago the scouting was particularly heavy. Then, yesterday it completely stopped. I haven’t seen a bee around that trap in 24 hours. Nothing has changed with my bees, except that I have been adding more colonies. This would seem to validate that the scouts that had been there were not just my bees looking around. I also have a trap on the rack right next to my other hives and only 10 yards from the one on the roof. The trap in the rack continues to have several bees poking in and out all the time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
April 17 - Remember the swarm from April 9 that I collected without a single bee breaking cluster when I grabbed it, and when I dumped it into the box? Well, how does a swarm like that end up without a queen a week later?

That’s the situation I found today. No eggs, but 5 emergency cells on the donor frame I put in from a different hive.

I would not have thought - from the size of the swarm - that this was anything other than a prime swarm, but the only thing I can come up with is that this was a virgin queen swarm and the queen did not make it home from mating flights.

I also looked in on the cutout hive. No eggs there either, but there were 3 capped emergency cells and a couple of other uncapped ones. I was starting to feel pretty confident that I didn’t have the queen and was ready to combine these bees with other hives. I still doubt the viability of these cells, but I decided to give them a chance. I moved 2 frames with cells into a 2 frame mating nuc and will see if a mated queen is produced. Meanwhile, I took the other 3 frames with adherent bees and moved 2 to the tiny swarm from 2 days ago. That probably tripled the population of that hive. I moved the other frame and bees to the swarm caught in my yard earlier this week. The queen castle is in the original location, so it will receive all the field bees back
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
April 18 - I went out to check the traps today and decided to also look at a park I had not been to before, but where I thought might be a good place to set another trap. I spotted a nice, big oak tree at the far end of the park and went over to take a closer look. I guess I’m starting to think like a bee when it comes to identifying good hive locations, because my tree was already occupied. I almost didn’t notice, because I was looking up, but right at ground level there was an opening with bees coming and going.

I’m not sure I have ever found a bee tree on my own before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
April 19 - I have failed for the first time to catch a swarm I was called to. This was the biggest swarm I have seen in quite some time, but it was 65 feet up as measured by my drone, not 30-40 feet as described by the home owner.
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This photo is taken from the skinny side. It actually extends back along the branch. So, it’s 3 or 4 times as big as it looks here.

Anyway, I climbed about 30 feet up the tree, but the branches were pretty sketchy, and I guess I’m just getting too old.
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I ended up leaving a trap. I hope the bees move in or at least move lower down so I can grab them. The problem is that this one is a 45 minute drive away, so I can’t spend any more time checking in.

by the way, I tried tanging for several minutes to absolutely no effect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
April 20 - Not much of an adventure today, just a nice small swarm on a branch at eye level.
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
April 21 - I was checking a trap today when the property owner bordering the park where the trap is located came out to ask me if I knew anything about the trap. I said I did and offered to answer any of his questions. He started telling me about how a week ago his cherry tree was absolutely full of bees and there were bees all over the side of my trap. It really sounded to me like maybe a swarm had settled in his tree and then moved to my trap - even though he didn’t see a cluster.

As far as I can tell, the trap is not occupied, at least not by a large colony, although there are quite a few bees scouting it. The bees I see seem to bee circling and investigating, not heading straight in and out.

Anyway, hearing this history really made me wonder about all that goes on at a trap that we never even know about, because we aren’t around to see it. It also makes me wonder why a swarm would have moved in and then moved right back out. I am worried about overpowering the bees with LGO, so I am very careful about limiting the dose. and it had been about a month since I baited the trap, so I feel like it had plenty of time to mellow.
 

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Anyway, hearing this history really made me wonder about all that goes on at a trap that we never even know about, because we aren’t around to see it. It also makes me wonder why a swarm would have moved in and then moved right back out. I am worried about overpowering the bees with LGO, so I am very careful about limiting the dose. and it had been about a month since I baited the trap, so I feel like it had plenty of time to mellow.
I think I have seen posts on here mentioning swarms leaving swarm traps when they were to small for the swarm. I wonder if it was something like this
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I think I have seen posts on here mentioning swarms leaving swarm traps when they were to small for the swarm. I wonder if it was something like this
That could be, but it would take quite a swarm to find a 40 liter trap too small. I am even sadder if that’s what happened.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
April 22 - I got a call for the biggest swarm yet this year. It was great - large, only 10 miles away, and close enough to the ground that I didn’t need a ladder or any other equipment to reach it.
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However, there were some pretty strange things about this swarm. It was on the outside of a chimney in which an established hive is living. The swarm was only a couple of feet from the entrance to the hive. It may be the close proximity that made the bee’s behavior unusual. After scooping the bees off the wall, the remaining bees never really got the message to move into the box. Even when I put the opening of the box next to a gathering clump, they didn’t make any movement toward the box. Some bees even started heading toward the opening of the established hive before turing around and hanging out in between the hive and my box. In the end, I had to physically move all the stragglers into the box.

The other big question is where these bees came from. The chimney had been occupied years ago, but the landlord had it sprayed. The result was a stench that made the basement of the house uninhabitable. The bees were gone for a couple of years, but showed up again just a week or so ago. Because of that short time and the large size of the swarm, I don’t think that this swarm was cast from the hive in the chimney. I don’t have a good explanation for why the swarm lit so close to an established hive, regardless of where it was cast from.

By the way, I also don’t think that these bees were forced out of the chimney by maybe exposing a pocket of old pesticide, because the traffic at the opening looked heavy and regular for what I’d expect from a healthy hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
April 27 - A different adventure today. I got a call from a police officer who had responded to a call about a swarm of bees. The city doesn’t actually do anything about bee swarms, but they do have my number. I got the number of the older lady who made the report and gave her a call. I couldn’t tell from what she told me whether the bees were living in the tree or whether there was a swarm cluster hanging from the tree. When I got out there and saw what I was dealing with, it started making sense. It was kind of both.

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I have never seen anything quite like this. There was what looks like a decent size swarm on the outside of the tree, but there were also a lot of bees walking in full of pollen. I understand bearding, but, like I said, this is a decent size swarm worth of beers, and it was barely 60° When I got there around noon after a fairly cool night. None of my hives or any of the bee trees I watch look anything like this.

I scraped off the clustered bees revealing the hive entrance.
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You can see from the propolis and traffic marks that the bees spend a lot of time on the outside of the hive. And a neighbor told me that this is how they always look.

I figured with that many bees bearding that they were working up to a swarm. I decided to take the couple of pounds of bees I scraped to boost the swarm from April 20. After giving the bees a couple of hours to start realizing they are queenless, I set the bucket they are in on top of the queenright hive and made a small opening for a slow, gradual transition.

Has anyone seen something like this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
April 28 - Swarm season is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. We’ve had several days of cloudy and cool, but we had sunny and 70’s today. I knew there was going to be some pent up pressure to make a move. I was right about that. I got 3 calls. Sadly, I have no new hives out of it.

The first one was huge, but it was a 45 minute drive. Luckily I was giving a beekeeping lesson to a newbie when the call came in. If I had left immediately, I would have been 10 minutes out when the guy called to say they had left.
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The second one was close by, but not close enough. The guy called me back a few minutes later to say they had moved. It wasn’t huge, but still a real decent swarm that would have taken a little work to scrape off a thick limb.

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The third call was from a guy that inherited an old, empty hive box when he bought his house several years ago. He had it all set up and had been hoping for years that a swarm would move in. Funny how people who want bees end up getting them. Today a swarm arrived and lit on his grape vine post. He saw my ad on Craigslist and called to ask if I would hive it for him. I can’t resist catching a swarm, even if I don’t get to keep it. So, he has a nice little swarm to start his beekeeping adventure.

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Tomorrow is going to be even warmer. Hopefully I earned some good karma today that will spill over to tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
April 29 - I guess that good karma I hoped for yesterday came. I had another 3-call day and all of them worked out this time - sort of.

I would have been happy if the day had ended after just the first one. This was probably the second biggest swarm I have ever caught - the kind you bring a 10-frame box for - no messing around with nuc boxes. It was 20 feet up in a tree, but that’s an easy reach with my extension pole and bucket - no ladder required. I got most of them with the first bump, let the stragglers reconvene, bumped them again, then left the box for the rest to find. I received 2 more calls while I was there, so I couldn’t wait around for stragglers. In all, it only took about 10 minutes.
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Then I was off to the local Mini Dealership where they had a small secondary swarm maybe the size of 2 grapefruits. This one was 4 feet off the ground on the end of a maple twig. Total time about 3 minutes.
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Then I was off to the third call with the mini swarm riding along in the van. Bees were leaking out of the box the whole drive and continued to escape while I was working on the third swarm. At some point, I thought it might be a good idea to let the escapees back into the box, so I removed the screen plug. That wasn’t the best idea, because they started pouring out pretty quickly. I figured it was already too late, so I just let them go back in while I continued to work. I kept checking back on them to see how they were doing, and it looked like they were just hovering around the box, and largely going back inside. However, when I got home and looked inside, there were only about 20 bees left. So, that was a total loss. Still, I wonder weather it was a mistake to open the box before getting home. If they were determined to leave, I’m not sure it would have mattered if I had brought them home before opening the entrance. I didn’t have a frame of brood to give them, so I’m not sure what else I could have done. This is really the first time I have ever had a swarm leave once I hived them.

Anyway the 3rd swarm turned out to be a real ordeal. It was about 35 feet up in a fir tree. I tried my ladder/extension pole combination, but came up a few feet short. I moved on to throwing a baseball with a string tied on over the branch and giving it is good shake. The bees fell, but with that much height, they took flight before hitting the ground - returning to the original branch. Eventually, I got the idea to just keep that branch shaking until the bees gave up trying to land there. This was a pretty good workout, but it did work. After a while the biggest part of the clump was on the next branch down, which was in range with the ladder and extension pole. There were quite a few bees that never gave up on the higher spot, and as the sun was sinking low and the string over the branch broke, I gave up on them. I got enough bees to fill a five frame nuc very well, but I’ll have to wait a few days to learn whether I got the queen.

I also wonder whether the bees from the mini swarm joined the third swarm. It was a pretty short distance between the two and I do feel like the swarm I got was bigger than I expected. Although it was so far up, it was hard to really judge the size

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