My bees seemed odd when I went out and had a quick look at them this morning, and through the day they seemed to be acting oddly – saw very few on flowers but quite a few flying almost aimlessly around, and by late afternoon there was a tremendous buzzing sound. I looked over and saw the outside of the hive covered in bees, and thinking they were being robbed by other bees(my default assumption when I see lots of them flying around the hive and it’s not overly hot) I suited back up and grabbed a block of wood to further reduce the entrance. As I got closer to it I noticed the buzzing was coming from the cottonwood tree behind the hive itself, and the bees were all coming out of the hive rather than trying to go into it. I put the observations together and realized my colony was swarming…. I looked up in the tree and sure enough saw a swarm.
First response – grab the camera and spend a few mesmerizing moments marveling at the moving blob of bees
Second – catch the swarm!
I found a bucket, brought the closest swarm trap down from it’s position on the hillside, opened it up and pulled the frames, then took the bucket and a broom and got the majority of the bees in the bucket. Then threaded the maze of cacti (of course the bees choose the settle on a tree with a cactus garden around the base) and dumped the bucket of bees into the swarm box. I assume I got the queen in the first pass since the bees in the box made no sign of leaving and flying bees headed to the box instead of the tree, but I did go back a few times and collect more of the dwindling group of bees still hanging on to the branch.
I put the box in a patch of shade while I thought about what to do with it, and then an odd thing happened – several of the bees started to fly from the box back to the original hive. I don’t know if they gave up on the idea of swarming, if they went back for a snack (is it technically robbing if swarming bees which haven’t yet created a new hive return to their original hive?) or if, as could potentially be the case, they were a different colony which just happened to settle near my colony and were indeed robbing.
Now to go build a hive stand in the assumption that they stick around…
Update 10 May 2017 – After building and installing the hive stand and a hive body, I went out the next morning and found that only a fraction of the bees I had put in the box the evening before were still in it. I went ahead and dumped them into the empty brood box, added some frames, and then left on a multi-week trip. When I got home yesterday I noticed bees flying in and out of the original hive, but not a hint of activity at the new hive. Today I opened it up and it’s as if there had never been a bee in it… so whatever occurred, the swarming bees opted to move on.