Bait hives are set around the property to attract swarming bees in spring. We check them every day to see if they are working. On this day there is no sign of activity in the bait hives. But there were a lot of bees buzzing around the Chinese Pear tree, which was odd because it is not yet in flower. On closer inspection there it was: a large swarm
formed on the ground under the Chinese Pear.
Our Milkwood natural beekeeping course had not prepared us for this. Swarms are supposed to rest in trees, not on the ground. One of our Warre hives was placed next to the swarm with a ramp to the entrance covered in a white sheet. After trial and error (rewarded by bee stings for both of us) we worked out we could place sticks into the swarm and then shake the bees that clustered onto the sticks into the hive. It took a few hours but once the queen was in the hive the stampede began. Within 30 minutes the swarm had marched into the hive.
We gently set the hive onto its stand and strapped it down and retired to nurse our wounds and celebrate with a few beers. The workers had sealed the entrance to the hive with the bee equivalent of a human shield. We guessed this was to insulate the hive from the cool evening air to help them get the hive to its regulation constant 35 degrees.
Next morning at first light the bees were busy building their new home in the Warre hive. We will open the hive again in a few weeks to see if they have started building honeycomb.
Want to learn more about natural beekeeping? The way of the Bee: An intro to Natural Beekeeping