Adventures at Indian Springs Park- Swarm Season

April 30, 2010

Well, it’s been a very interesting afternoon and evening around the Simpson household. Very exciting in a bee geek kind of way. I took my children to Indian Springs Park in San Mateo this afternoon for the Welcome Homeschoolers Friday afternoon park day. Always a fun time. Any way, when we got there, I noticed that a swarm had parked on one of the trees- maybe eight feet up. I enjoyed talking with some of the parents for a while, but the swarm was distracting me. When bees swarm, they will park in one place for a while as they scout for a good home. Then, when they find a good place to settle, the entire hive will travel to the new home. So, I kept watching scouts going and coming- waiting for the swarm to take off for their new home. But, they just stayed on the side of the tree. The chances of any swarm making it are pretty remote. I’ve read that maybe 5-10% of swarms will make it through their first winter. Bees in a well-tended hive have a much better chance. With colony collapse disorder, I’ve read that most beekeepers have a 50% die off rate each year. Now, that’s not great, but it’s better than the 5-10% chance that they have if they’re left alone. So, it kept bothering me- watching this swarm that had a slim chance of making it. Felt like a wasted resource to me. For pollination, and for honey.

So, I ran home and grabbed a hive and some swarm lure. Swarm lure is a pheromone that you put into a hive body to try to bait a swarm into your hive. I left it there for maybe 1 1/2 hours. Scouts went in and out, but the swarm didn’t move. The swarm was too high for me to mechanically move them into a hive on my own. I needed a ladder and some help. And, it was 5:45- we were all tired and hungry. In our household, things get ugly when we’re tired and hungry.

I packed up my bait hive and went out to eat with my family, thinking that I would go back in the morning with my husband. My husband decided to go back this evening, though. So, he just got back, and the swarm is safely (I hope) hived in my back yard. Per his report, the bees were pretty ticked. One of the ways bees communicate is with pheremones. Their alarm pheremone has a banana smell, and he said that the odor was quite strong when he brushed them into the box.

We’re trying to do what we can to give them a good chance. My husband put a full frame of honey in for them to feed on. We also put a feeder with sugar water in to help them build comb. If you don’t feed new hives, it’s more challenging for them to build comb. The sooner they build out comb, the sooner they can start storing pollen, nectar, and the queen can start laying eggs. Some beekeepers feed routinely. At this point, I’ve only fed my bees for the first couple of weeks after I install them into their hives. I’m going to go into another hive tomorrow to transfer a couple of frames of brood (eggs) into their hive just to give them an extra boost. Then, I’ll leave them alone for a good bit, other than keeping their feeder full. We’ll know in a week or so whether we actually have a functioning queen. I’ll keep you posted.

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3 Responses to “Adventures at Indian Springs Park- Swarm Season”

  1. Lisa Liguori Says:

    Robin,
    Such great news! Thank you for saving the bees! I wish we could have stayed to see how you transported them from one place to another. We had never seen a bee swarm before…I dont think.

    My son wants bees, so you will be hearing from us. Your blog is inspiring and I will be back…(I want chickens too 😉

  2. robinjohnsonsimpson Says:

    Hey Lisa- My husband actually went back last night and got them with a ladder, a cardboard box and a bee brush. Then, he dumped them into a hive at home. As an aside, he drove our Prius in his bee suit just in case some of the bees got out. Sort of funny to see someone driving with their bee hat and veil on. What can I say? At this point, we’re used to being sort of odd.


  3. […] a close-up, you can also see the uncapped larva. The worker brood that we put into the hive when we installed the swarm would have hatched yesterday at the latest. So, all of the worker brood that we saw today was from a […]


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