Bees swarming is a natural thing and although beekeepers can breed from their less swarmy bees, not all do. However colonies will swarm, even with the best bred bee. I was called to look at some bees by a gardener who found bees flying out of a concrete box on the grass which was hiding some gas pipes. Here’s a couple of pictures from what is generally called a “cut out” where the colony had comb and brood already in the cavity they made their home. What seems to work is putting existing comb into frames and fixing them in with masking tape. It sounds easy but it can be a bit awkward to do. If the bees are well-behaved, as these ones were, it helps! After a couple of weeks the tape has been chewed through, by which time the comb has been well and truly fixed to the frame. Simples!
As usual I receive calls concerning swarms. More often than not, it’s bumblebees that I am called about and my advice is to leave them be. They do no damage and will disperse in late summer or autumn. This year I have been asked to collect a couple of honey bee swarms. They are generally well-behaved to start with and their behaviour – or temper – exhibits itself after a couple of weeks or so. One turned out to be more lively than I would like so they currently have a virgin queen in from one of my own. The second was hived OK and after a few days a quick check revealed that there were eggs in the hive so I had a mated queen in there. After a week I opened up and started to look through the colony. After the third frame I noticed something rather odd. A dead queen that looked like it was hiding – or trying to – under some comb. Amazingly she was a big laying queen – but with her sting chamber open as you can see. I can only assume that she was in a fight and lost. But who with? Did a virgin go with the colony when it swarmed? Was the swarm actually two together, both with mated queens? Very unlikely that idea. Did a virgin or newly mated queen fly in from a mating flight? Or did she just swell up after dying? In any case I will have to look in a few days and see what’s going on. Here’s a photo of her.
Answers on a postcard please!