Lesson 118: Mild Winter May Mean More Swarm Calls www.honeybeesonline.com 217-427-2678


Hello gang! We’re David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois.

Because it was such a mild winter, colonies may produce more swarms. This means as a beekeeper, you should be prepared for swarm retrievals. So today’s lesson will be about swarms: Are swarms worth retrieving? What’s the best way to catch a swarm? How to keep a swarm from leaving again and what is the best use for a swarm that is caught. But before today’s lesson, we want to tell you about what’s been going on with our family business here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farm.

Karee's Wed PicMost of you speak to our youngest daughter Karee when you call in. Karee turned 21 this year and the big news…she eloped with one of our main workers. Right in the middle of our busiest times, they ran off to Montana and were married! We knew about it in advance and we are very proud of our newest son-in-law, Jesse. He’s one of our greatest workers and a super guy to be around. When you call in be sure to congratulate Karee.

HouseofbeesWe are now offering a new product. We’re in a new partnership with a great company called House of Bees. This product is called the Bee Garden and is a package of 10 seed packets with just the right kinds of flowers that your bees will enjoy. Good for the beekeeper as well as the non-beekeeper who want to help our honey bees. Click here or go to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=202

David had a blast speaking at the Missouri State Beekeeping Association meeting in St. Louis. David gave many talks on various beekeeping subjects along with Dr. Greg Hunt, Dr. Jerry Hayes and Dr. May Berenbaum. David spoke at their Friday night banquet, presenting a very comical presentation on beekeeping that left them in stiches.

Lesson118We gave two beginner’s classes on March 24th and the 25th back to back. We met many of you that were there for the first time, so welcome! Sheri and I really love teaching our beginner’s course. These classes always sell out, and we work very hard to make our courses the most thorough and complete courses ever. Our next basic beginner course will be held on Oct. 6th, 2012. Click here to sign up now.

David taught his queen rearing course at Heartland Community College in Bloomington, Illinois last month and his next queen rearing course will be May 12th, 2012 at the Farm Bureau near our apiary in Danville, IL. It’s filling up fast, so click here to sign up or go to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=155

queenclass2011Our yearly two day queen rearing course is also filling up nicely and will be held on June 15th-16th. Two days allows us more opportunity to go into greater details in teaching you to raising your own queens. Click here to sign up for our this two day queen rearing course or go to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=156

Finally, I’ll be teaching an advance beekeeping course in Chicago on April 21st, 2012 at the Heritage Prairie Farm. Bronwyn Weaver has Bron’s Bees, 150 hives on organic farms and prairies in Northern Illinois. I appreciate the invite to teach on Advance Beekeeping at Heritage Prairie Farm. Click here to sign up.

For all of our future classes go to: www.honeybeesonline.com/classes.html

LESSON 118: A Mild Winter May Mean More Swarm Calls

Lesson74fAs  beekeepers we get plenty of calls about swarms, hanging on trees, cars, buildings, fence posts and homes. You’re going to get those calls as a beekeeper. Is it worth going after a swarm? Yes.

First, it is worth it because as beekeepers we need to calm the public when they encounter honey bees. Secondly, a swarm is made up of a laying queen and young bees ready to make a new home. This can be a valuable addition to our apiary. Let’s think about the best way to catch a swarm.

Lesson74gOur primary objective is to safely retrieve the queen and her colony. Consider the risks when climbing trees, ladders and scaling walls. It is dangerous and a swarm is never worth bodily injury. Use good judgment. Some swarms you simply walk away from because the risk is too high.


lesson74aA healthy hive produces a swarm, and since we had a mild winter, many colonies are healthy in numbers and will likely produce swarms. This is a colony’s natural way of reproducing, making another colony.  Around 60% of the bees in a strong hive will leave with the old queen, fly and land close by, and remain there until the scouts report back with a new home location. While the swarm is hanging there, we can retrieve the swarm. However, keep in mind that they may only stay put a few minutes or a few days. You never know. Often you can drive a considerable distance only to find the swarm has flown away to their newly found home.

DAVID’S TIP: When I receive a call about a swarm, I write down the caller’s cell number. Then, when I am half way to the location, I call and ask if the swarm is still there. Many times, the swarm is gone and by calling half way, I minimize my fuel costs.

Make a flyer and post it around various places in town so people will know to call you when they see a swarm. Send flyers to pest control companies, police and fire departments, garden centers and local businesses such as groceries and hardware stores.

Lesson74eHow to catch a swarm. Make sure the swarm has landed and is a tight clump of bees. If they are on a limb, it can be as simple as placing equipment below the limb and giving the branch a hard shake. Hopefully all the bees with the queen will be shaken into your equipment so that you can put a lid on it, and wait a few minutes for all the bees to go inside and you’re finished. Sometimes the bees fly back up to their original place in the tree. It may take several shakes.

With the permission of the owner of the tree, you might consider cutting a small limb supporting the swarm and physically carrying the swarm on the limb to your box to shake them in or to simply place the limb, bees and all into the hive box.

May 24 2010 042Many beekeepers are frustrated when the swarm will not stay in the box, but takes flight again. How can you prevent that from happening. Well, nothing is perfect, but it can help to add drawn comb that has been sprayed with sugar water with Honey-B-Healthy. For our swarm retrieval boxes, we use a screen bottom board, a deep hive body, an inner cover and a lid. We also have a specially cut piece of screen for the front entrance and a tie down strap to strap it all together for transport.

swarmcatcherWe sell this Emergency Swarm Catch Kit. Click here for more information. Since our kit uses a screen bottom board and a screen blocking the entrance, we will keep the hive sealed off for about 24-48 hours. This allows time for the hive to settle in to our new box. It isn’t always 100% but it certainly helps.

As a beekeeper, you should always be prepare to retrieve a swarm. Every where we go our vehicles are loaded with swarm retrieval items such as the swarm kit, ladders, sugar spray, protective gear etc. We’ve found many swarms even while traveling on the road. So take equipment with you during the swarming months of April through June.

TipJarThanks for joining us for another lesson in beekeeping. We have a growing number of students who have learned how to keep bees based on these free lessons. It’s our hope that if you find these lessons of value, you’ll consider making a donation so that we can continue our research, experiments and communicating to you the best practices in keeping bees. Click on the tip jar to make a $30 donation or go to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=144

Thank you in advance for your donation.

Please feel free to contact us. Phone is best. 217-427-2678 and visit us online at: www.honeybeesonline.com

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Website: www.honeybeesonline.com

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