The Swarm

So, I’m working in my front yard, trimming landscape bushes and I see my neighbor Tom D’Asto, driving down my driveway with purpose.  I can see too, that he was fully gowned in his bee suit, veil and all.  He has a swarm, and needs help, as I did not have my cell phone nearby to hear his plea in my phone messages.


Being Tom’s bee mentor (second-year bee keeper), to my several years of bee-keeping “experience” (through my mentor, Jim Chassion), he was excited to try and capture a new hive, which is a two-man or more operation, if you want to make easy work of acquiring a new hive.

Working through my supplies in the barn, we quickly configured a new hive, with bottom board, three hive bodies, frames and foundation, inner cover and top.  Tom quickly placed them in his Jeep, and I followed behind in my truck, with camera and bee suit.


Wanting to take pictures of a textbook swarm capture, Tom and I commissioned Tom’s daughter Gina, to assist in the operations.  Fully gowned, she’s ready to help, and I can stand back, instruct and take pictures.


This ball of honey bees looks to exceed what you would get in a new package or nucleus of bees, which we suspect, easily exceed 3,000 individual bees.


Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when a queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees.  In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen.  A swarm usually occurs in the late spring and/or early summer, and more often than not, because the old hive grew too crowded.

Let this be a reminder to all bee keepers, to inspect your hives during honey-flow, to make sure to add boxes with frames and foundation as needed.

My son Joshua, a new bee keeper, captured a swarm last week (third week of May), and now has three hives at his Frederick County home.


A swarm will land on a tree branch, usually no more than 20-feet high, and worker bees will surround and protect the queen, while scout bees search for a new home.  This process may take an hour, to two or three days.  I believe that swarms are attracted to existing hives, and will see if a hive complex may have an unoccupied hive to abscond.


Clipping the branches of the green ash tree, Tom and Gina get all of the “ball-of-bees” into the box and cover the lid.


Tom shakes the bees into the hive and places an inner board over the top of the hive and puts on one jar of sugar syrup, to aid in establishment.  But as soon as he is finished, the difference of the flying bees continue to “ball-up” in the ash tree.  We all agreed, let’s get the rest!


Here goes the second round.


Snip with the clippers . . .


. . . climb down the ladder . . .


. . . and into the covered box once more.


Waiting a few minutes, a third ball formed.  Why not, let’s get these too, and get this entire flying colony in the hive.


We feel confidant that we got the queen in the initial large capture (three sigma), but we looked closely none the less, with each of the three captures, to see if we could discern the queen.


This photo and the next are literally one second apart, as Tom gives one good shake, and the bees fall down between the hive frames.


All of the thousands of bees are now in their new home.  Time to button-up the hive and allow the honey bees to acclimate and continue with honey and baby bee production.  Today is May 30, 2016, Memorial Weekend, and we typically have through the month of June for honey production, then with honey extraction in July.

A new package of bees with queen costs about $100 to $120, and it sure is nice to have a swarm voluntarily show up to your bee yard, and be so accommodating for capture.  The real bonus here, is determining that the swarm did not originate from your own hives, but came in from another source.

How exciting to document the process and share with others.  Thank you Tom and Gina.