Around 5 PM last night, Henry and I were hanging out in the driveway talking when he suddenly stopped and started looking around. It didn’t take but a minute for him to locate small swarm of honeybees. I had been hearing a buzzing in my subconscious, too, but had ignored it because there’s always a lot of buzzing at our place from the 60+ hives scattered around the property.
At first, the bees were all in the air. They were flying around in one area for five minutes or so until they began to land and cluster on a small branch about 25 feet up the trunk of an oak tree. Henry ran off and grabbed his pole saw (with an extension) and hung a bucket with a frame of drawn comb doused in sugar syrup on the end of it. He positioned the bucket squarely under the growing ball of bees and forcefully rammed the branch with the bucket to jostle them loose. Some bees fell into the bucket and a bunch took flight but stayed nearby. When the cluster began to form again, Henry knocked the branch with the bucket a second time. The queen must have fallen in the box at that point because the bees started to regroup in and on the bucket instead of on the branch.
After waiting a minute or so, he lowered the bucket and its contents.
This was not a big swarm, maybe the size of a cantaloupe when balled up. It most likely came from one of Henry’s breeding nucs, which had multiple queen cells hatch at the same time.
Once the swarm was out of the tree and mostly in/on the bucket, Henry started looking for the queen.
He spotted her easily and nabbed her (unharmed) in a queen catcher which looks like a glorified hair clip thingy but is functionally a little cage (above left). He put the frame from the bucket into a nuc box.
He then tried to coax her out of the queen catcher and into a small queen cage. (I love this photo, by the way. Not sure why.)
Apparently she didn’t really want to come out, so a ton of bees started to settle on Henry’s hand while he waited for the queen to exit the queen catcher.
Finally she made it safely into the queen cage.
He let the cage sit on top of the nuc box for a while, so that the rest of the hive could begin orienting to their new home.
He plugged the cage with a candy cap (a specially designed stopper made out of a gob of sugary fondant), so the queen won’t be able to get out until the workers chew their way through to her. That should only take a couple days, and by that time, they will have set up shop permanently in the new box.
Henry wedged the queen cage between two frames in the nuc box.
Then he put the lid on and left them alone.
Neither Henry or I was stung once during this operation even though we both had many bees landing on us, and he had his bare fingers working in the hive. Just another testament to the docile nature of swarming bees.