This is the biggest swarm I’ve ever caught, and it may be the biggest I’ve ever seen. I first found them about a million feet up in a mulberry tree. We set up the extension ladder, threw together a rope and pulley system for the box, and as soon as I started putting on my harness these gals decided they’d make it easier on me and moved to a shorter tree.
After clipping as many branches as possible, I was finally able to reach the swarm using a 5-foot ladder. They were still hard to reach, and it took three separate shakes into three separate containers to get the lot of them. As of today (2 days later), they are still not completely settled into their new home, so I’m forced to leave the queen excluder in place at the bottom of the box longer than I’d like.
Two days after the package bees are introduced to the box, the queen is ready to be let out of her cage. These bees were brought in on Saturday, April 21, so I released the queens last Monday evening. I took a chance again and went without my suit, with great success. Few bees seemed to even notice me.
The bees had migrated out of the packages completely and on to the frames containing and directly adjacent to the queen cages. These frames were absolutely covered with bees, and it was a delicate task to separate them and to pull off the queen cage. The cages were sealed with a cork rather than candy, and were easily removed with the tip of a pocketknife. Once her cage was opened, the queen walked right out. I held her up for a few seconds for a photo op, then lowered her to the bottom of the box. She crawled to the back corner of the box, right where she’s supposed to go.
I’ll revisit these ladies in a day or two to refill their feeders, and to replace the front feeders with internal feeders. The internal feeders will enable me to remove the top box and give them less of an area to heat while they get strong.