The bees swarm again

A  few days ago I wrote how queen Violette decided to swarm and then changed her mind and went back.  Amelia and I opened up the hive after they settled down and made an artificial swarm, as we had found a couple of queen cells in the hive.  One was already closed, and so we expected a virgin queen to be born before too long.

We do not wish to count our chickens before they are hatched, so we have been reluctant to give a name to that small (six frame) hive until we are sure they have a fertilised queen.  That reminded us that when we lived in Athens, the Greeks would not name a baby until he or she was christened in church.  Until then the baby was simply called ‘το μωρό’ – the baby – pronounced as ‘to moro’.  So we also called the new hive ‘to moro’.

One week later we decided to open up Violette, as she has not swarmed for a second time.  This time we found six or seven queen cells on one frame.  We took the frame up with the nurse bees once again and placed it together with another brood frame from Poppy without her bees.  We made up another mini (six frame) hive.  ‘So what shall we call this one?’,  Amelia asked.  As I was born in Iran, I suggested we call her ‘pasfarda‘ – that means ‘the day after tomorrow’!  We closed up the little hive and housed her in the cellar once again for two night with the hope of placing her at the end of the garden.

The following day we checked on ‘to moro‘ at the end of the garden as well as ‘pasfarda‘ in the cellar.  We fed them both 2:1 syrup.  We settled down in the garden for a quiet lunch.

But ‘why’, I asked Amelia, ‘look at Sunflower.  She seems to be unusually excited.  I think she is considering swarming.’

Sunflower before swarming

So we continued eating our lunch with one eye on Sunflower.  Yes, it did appear that they were, as they call it here, were making a beard on the hive.

Sunflower 'faire une barbe'

However, by the time we finished eating, it seemed that once again the hive had become calm and we could not see many bees on the outside.  ‘Oh, well,’ we thought, ‘just like Violette, the queen in Sunflower must have gone back inside.

It was not until late afternoon that I put on my bee-suit to see how the little ladies were doing.  I approached Sunflower and saw something that I had not expected.  She had in fact swarmed, but the queen must have been ‘so attached’ to her old home that she had formed a swarm just under the hive.

Hive swarmed under her own hive

So another call to our beekeeper friend, Michel.  ‘How do we catch a swarm from under a hive?’  As he lives only a few minutes away, he turned up rapidly for a quick inspection.

Inspecting a swarm under the hive

Even he admitted that it was a bit tricky and as the evening was drawing in, he suggested we leave them until the morning and see what her majesty had decided to do.

Early in the morning, before breakfast, I visited the hive and found that the swarm had slept outdoors all night.

Swarm under the hive

I decided to close up Sunflower, and also the mini hive (to moro), next to her.  The latter I removed a bit further away so as she does not get knocked down.

Michel came a little later, armed with a pair of trestles, which we placed near the hive.

Step one in recovering the swarm

Next step was to place an empty mini hive under the trestle and then very gently lift Sunflower together with her super ….

Lifting the hive

…  and placed it on the trestle.

Placing the hive with the swarm on a trestle

Now we had to brush the swarm gently and let them drop into the empty mini hive.

brushing the swarm into the mini hive

Apart from a lot of bees on our clothes all went well and the mini hive ‘ruchette’ was closed up.

Swarm transferred to ruchette

Sunflower was lifted once again on her own stand and opened up.  The bees from the swarm that were still on the blanket and on the ground started marching into the mini hive.

Successful transfer of swarm to hive

I replaced ‘to moro’ back next to Sunflower and brought ‘pasfarda‘ out of the cellar.

The two ruchettes and the hive of Sunflower

The following day 14th April, the sky was cloudy, despite the 18 degrees temperature.  By lunch time it started raining lightly.  I suggested to Amelia that we go to our nearest big town, Saintes, as I wished to buy a few things.  We returned late afternoon and I went to empty the Asian hornet traps as I have caught a total of nine queens in the last week.  By then it was nearly 7 pm and I decided to go and have a last look at the bees before turning in.

‘Stop. Amelia’, I shouted.  This time Poppy has swarmed.  She must have swarmed whilst we were away as we had not notice them agitated around their hive.  They must have picked up the scent that Violette had placed on the quince tree and swarmed in the same place.

Poppy swarmed on the quince tree

Despite the lateness in the day, I needed to make another quick call to Michel.  ‘What would I do without you?’  He is always kind and calm.  ‘Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé?‘  I explained what has happened.

Once again he arrived in less than five minutes to give us assistance.  But before his arrival, Amelia and I prepared a ‘ruchette’ – a six frame hive.

Collecting bee swarm from quince tree

The bees were gently brushed into the empty hive and the frames inserted and the top closed.  We placed the hive at the base of the tree and the rest of the bees that were still on the tree and those that had fallen on the ground simply matched in.  In this short video you can actually see the rest of the bees walking into the hive.

I have promised myself not to keep more than four hives.  So I offered it to Michel.

swarm collcted. The rest of the bees simply marched into the hive.

I am beginning to wonder if we are too kind to our bees and they don’t really wish to go far away from our garden.

Dinner that night was rather late!   – Kourosh

22 thoughts on “The bees swarm again

    1. thelivesofk

      John, when I wrote this last piece for Amelia, I was truly thinking of you. I have been too busy these last few days with bees and more bees. I will try to find a few minutes to write, hopefully, what might be the last chapter.
      But, remember an invitation is always open…you must come over for a visit.
      – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a great story. Thank you. I watched a movie last night about the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in his later years. He was a beekeeper and quite a lot of the story centred on his bees. a lovely, tender movie.


    1. thelivesofk

      Many thanks Cynthia. Some few years ago when we moved over from Scotland to rural France, I never thought of keeping bees. I just thought of a bit of an adventure – something unusual, like the unusual houses that you have lived in or visited.
      I have not seen the movie you are talking about, although I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I will try to find the film.
      Thank you very much – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

    1. thelivesofk

      Thank you once again. The swarming season has been exciting and a little stressing. Not because of any fear, but because I always ask myself if I am taking the correct actions for these little ladies. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t help but smile when I read all your dramas. We have 24 hives (or somewhere between 15 & 30 depending on the year and season) and in swarming season I go out 3 or 4 times a day looking for swarms. I have totally given up trying to dissuade a swarming hive. When they decide their queen is strong and their stores are plentiful, they swarm. It’s an evolutionary thing – they want to reproduce. I don’t think they are easily fooled by making splits.

    One word of warning, don’t give away all your swarms too soon. We’ve caught swarms, kept them comfortably for a month, only to one day find an empty hive box with a bit of comb, even some brood. I have no idea why they abscond. We estimate we are only successful in retaining about 1/2 of our captured swarms. Sometimes it might be we didn’t get the queen, but often we see her and know she’s in the box yet still, the colony moves to greener pastures. Even after we supply them a frame full of nectar from a neighbouring hive. Clearly bees don’t know a good thing when they’ve got it. Or just maybe there are some perfect holes in trees that I don’t appreciate. Interestingly, I have never seen a wild colony around our property – so where do they go????

    My final note is that some swarms stick around but languish. This surprises me as I figure they have a top-notch queen which is why they swarmed. But the numbers never build up. We have merged 2 swarms, killing the poorest queen, to get the hive numbers up to something we think is sustainable year-round. Maybe you’ll have better results in your piece of paradise and all swarms will do well – here it’s a real hit and miss thing.


    1. thelivesofk

      Laura, It is good to hear from you.

      Your advice is certainly a wise thing to do. I do hope to be able to maintain our original four hives, and perhaps one small colony, in a six frame hive – just in case I have to merge them with a weaker one at the beginning of winter. Now we have three good hives plus the two that we have split. So far, so good. But I do not wish for more. Nor do I wish to sell any honey.

      Like you, Amelia and I visit the vicinity of the hives several times a day as this is certainly the start of swarming season for us. However, the mortality of hives for the beekeepers around us has been very high. I know several beekeepers that have lost all their hives (some 30, others 50 hives!). So, it might be that there will be less swarms this year. We will see.

      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. They are highly valued by Amelia and I. – Kourosh


    1. thelivesofk

      You are absolutely spot on. I have hardly spent a day of quiet rest during the last couple of weeks. I will try to write – hopefully without boring people.


    1. thelivesofk

      Thank you, Emily. It has been certainly a busy period for us. ,,,, And Amelia and I have eagerly been waiting to hear more news from your side. – Kourosh


    1. thelivesofk

      Thank you, Julie

      Swarming is certainly fascinating. It is a hormonal thing which happens at this time of the year, encouraging the colonies to create new colonies and thus expand.
      If we do not collect the swarm, the swarm will move until the bees find a new suitable location. On a tree is only a staging post for them.

      I appreciate your comment. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When a swarm moves on to find their own house in the wild I’m always a little sad and a little happy. I want more wild colonies of bees but it isn’t always good news. In your part of the world they face the dreaded varroa mite with no assistance which means most of them will die within a year. The other issue, of course, is they might find a great home that just won’t work. We have had a couple of colonies try to set up inside one of our walls (their access is now closed!) and getting them to move on was a lot of work. If they move into a neighbour’s house it can mean they get poisoned and bees get a bad reputation. Around here it’s considered a neighbourly responsibility to catch swarms before they make a nuisance of themselves.

        Beekeeping is sometimes a battle with nature but, more often, it’s the joy of watching nature at its best.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You certainly have had a lot of swarms so early in the year. When I kept bees many years ago some Beekeepers use to clip the wings of the queen bee so as not to lose the swarm. Is that still done today?


    1. thelivesofk

      Some still practice wing clipping. Some even place queen excluder at the entrance preventing the queen to leave.
      I am too much of a novice to approve or otherwise. The only thing that I do know is that the so-called swarm fever has several factors. Firstly it is hormonal: Bees as a superorganism multiply by producing new colonies each spring / early summer. The second factor is that if the colony feels that they are getting too numerous and there is insufficient room for the queen to lay eggs.
      I favour splitting the hive at that point, especially if I see queen cells. I have done so with our favourite hive this year and fingers crossed, so far, so good. However, even that, which involves removing one or two brood frames and honey frame, does not guarantee that the bees will not swarm. It just reduces the tendency.
      The other hives have both swarmed and we have caught the swarms on nearby tree.
      – Kourosh


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