Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bee Wranglers

We were out very early, for us, for a Sunday. At 9:30 AM, we were sitting in a parking lot waiting for the guy with the two hives, who was driving from New Hampshire and meeting us "halfway" (although, I think he probably had to drive further). He arrived, and we had a nice chat. He might like to barter - some veg from his dad's farm for some rabbit from ours.

In the meantime, though, we settled up and drove off in our different directions.

A friend, who also has bees, is taking one of the hives, and so we stopped at his place on our way home to drop off his hive.

It took us a few minutes of studying the bees up in that tree ... way up in the tree ... (like higher up than our ladder could reach, in fact, because our first thought was that we'd saw the branch and transfer it into the hive) to decide how we were going to get them down. Living in Maine, we have some pretty awesome tools. A roof rake helped us get the extension we needed to reach up to that lofty branch, and when ours proved not quite long enough, our neighbor (who told us we were her entertainment for the day) offered to let us borrow a couple of their extensions.

We tied a bucket to the end of the rake, and carefully extended it up to the branch. With a combination of "bonking" the branch with the bucket and shaking the tree using a rope tied to the trunk, we managed to capture most of the swarm - at least half. They weren't happy about being disturbed and loudly buzzed their irritation. Deus Ex Machina said later that he was sure he could hear them whining, Who moved my Queen?.

We weren't sure we had the queen in the first bucket, and so we tried again, with a second bucket, capturing another quarter, but there still seemed to be a lot of bees up on that branch.

Then, we took a break to allow the bees to settle a bit and realized it was 12:30. We needed to go to the feed store before they closed at 1:00 PM.

Little Fire Faery and I ran off to the feed store, and when we got back home, the bees were gone from the branch and in the hive.

Big Little Sister took pictures, and this one, of a bee on her hand, is my favorite.


  1. Congratulations - is that the first swarm you have caught? Presumably the hives you got were empty and you needed them/it to put the swarm in. It looks like a top bar hive - is it? and if so why are you using that type of hive which is designed for African people with limited tools and resources to simulate their traditional log hives? How do the bees survive the winter in Maine in these hives?
    (beekeeper for 57 years)

  2. Hi, David,

    This was my first time helping to catch a swarm, but this was not Deus Ex Machina's first time. This was his third swarm.

    We chose the top bar hive over the more common Langstroth hive, because based on our research, it seemed a more natural design for the bees.

    Success with these hives, as with all bee hives here in our climate, is mixed. The key seems to be proper insulation of the hive.

  3. Congrats on hiving the swarm! I agree with you Wendy that insulation is probably one of the key elements for any hive.

    I think it is great when a bee-keeper has success with a certain kind of hive, but those people need to realize that many different kinds of hives have different advantages, and not to criticize others who care for bees. We all should work together to support one another.

  4. Great job! I've been doing research to get ready for keeping bees; my husband's aunt has some experience and can help us, but they have the Langstroth hives and I wanted to try the top bar. I do hope you keep us posted on your beekeeping adventures!