Recently a veteran beekeeper who I am related to mentioned that it was swarming season. He caught me off guard. I did not realize there was a season for it. We have only had bees for almost one year. I am still new to some of the nuance.

Today shortly after coming home from getting my oldest son from school, he and his younger brother went out back to play. I went out to see what they were doing to find them climbing up and down the rungs that I recently nailed into a big old tree in our backyard. They were focused on how high they could go before getting nervous about the height. Then one of them said, almost as an aside, “Oh, dad. Did you see those bees trying to drink that chair? Bees are so weird sometimes.”

IMG_0413I did, in fact, see that something was on the chair before he mentioned it. It had been raining all morning though, so from my distance, I thought it was a wet branch that fell from the tree. Upon hearing from him that it was bees, I was a little stunned.

Had I not been reading about bees for the past year, I might have been scared. I likely would have panicked and told the boys to get in the house as fast as possible. But these were homeless bees. They have just taken a new queen and fled their overcrowded colony in search of a new home. Bees in this situation typically are in the most gentle state you might find a bee. Their queen is not in the safety of a hive, but exposed. Starting something aggressive with a giant mammal is the last thing they want to do. So fear was not my reaction.

I was more curious than anything. I had not seen a swarm before. The sight of it was awe inspiring. It took me quite a few minutes to put any implications together and start thinking that maybe I should do something about it.

IMG_0490At first I was just thinking about how natural it was for bees to swarm when they are overcrowded and not much more. Then I started remembering that we had been thinking of splitting our hive in the next couple of weeks. But we did not have another hive yet so what was I to do with this? I knew that some beekeepers offer swarm capture services because, well, free bees! I had read about it earlier in this beekeeping venture, but the details were sketchy in my mind. At that moment I did not feel comfortable doing it. Chris had mentioned to me that we could offer the service ourselves, to which I have always responded, “maybe someday, after we feel more comfortable with it.”

It turns out, someday had come. Unsure what to do with this situation, I searched the internet for some advice. I read a story from a keeper who started their first hive by capturing a swarm without knowing much about what they were doing. The story and the information provided within it gave me enough confidence to think I had a plan.

I found a box in our recycling that seemed big enough to temporarily house the swarm. I sealed any openings in the bottom with some really fancy duct tape. I left the top open thinking I would just knock them off of the chair into the box. This might sound crazy, but it is actually pretty standard procedure for moving a clump of bees.

IMG_0515Chris was napping while all this was going on. When someone in our house is resting, I tend to do everything I can to not get in the way of it. Up until this point I had kept to that. But I thought at this moment, before I do anything further, I might catch her up on the current situation. At first she was intent to keep on sleeping, but suggested that I use some empty frames we had to turn the box into a temporary nuc. This was crucial. As a box of bees, there would be a max of a day to figure out what to do with them before they would die. If I could make it work like a nuc, it might buy us enough time to get a new hive from the local beekeeper supply store that would not be open for the next couple of days.

The excitement of swarm capture must have taken hold because Chris ended up coming out to help execute the plan. We captured the swarm in the box with a few frames and gave them an entrance. The whole thing was pretty amazing. For something that was in a ‘maybe someday’ category just an hour or so earlier, helping those bees into their temporary home, working together with them, and just being in the cloud of bees was a truly boundless experience that I cannot wait for the opportunity to have again. I guess I can now officially offer a swarm-wrangling service.

Hopefully this makeshift nuc will hold them until Wednesday. If not we did the best we could with what we had. If it does work out, it just took a lot of the decisions about splitting our hive off of our hands. What a relief that is.