The Queenless Swarm That Was Left Behind
One day after capturing a swarm of bees on the “power lines”, I got another call from Beth. “There is still a softball size swarm near the power lines. Are you sure you got the queen?” I was positive I had the queen, from the fanning behavior of the bees, even though I had not actually seen her.
Sometimes when you capture a swarm, there are a few bees that are left behind. These are scout bees who leave the swarm during the daytime to go out and look for a new home for the colony. If their home “swarm” is taken away before they return, they get confused and form a cluster where the scent of the queen is the strongest, in the spot of the old swarm. Since the scout bees usually return to their swarm by evening, many beekeepers will leave the swarm collecting boxes there until dark so they don’t leave these bees behind. The ones that are left will die or return to their old colony. I did not want these bees left there to die. I told Beth I would come by in the evening and if the swarm was still there I would collect the rest of the bees.
When I arrived, I was surprised at the number of bees that still remained because I had left the swarm container there until after dark. I think the size was so large because Brian and I had to break the cluster to get the swarm off the “power lines” and many flying bees just did not find the bucket with the queen. After we left, they settled back down on the branch with the queen’s scent.
Yesterday this swarm was calm and gentle. But now that I had removed their queen, this queenless swarm was annoyed. As soon as I got near them, they began dive bombing me. I guess I deserved it for taking their queen away. A few continued to do so while I sprayed the rest with sugar water and brushed the queenless swarm into a bucket.
Once I had the bees in the bucket they were very upset, not calm like the swarm I collected yesterday. These bees were queenless, disturbed and making the irritated “ERRRRRRRR” buzzing sound. They continued to make this sound all the way home and while they were on the roof waiting to be rehived.
One of the most incredible moments I have had as beekeeper occurred next. I opened up the hive where I had placed the rest of the swarm. The hive was busy working away, building wax. The bucket of bees was still furious.
I slowly poured the agitated bees into the hive. The very second these angry bees hit the top bars of the hive, they switched from a mean “ERRRRRRRRR!” to instant fanning and elated buzzing. These previously ill-tempered bees now had their butts as high up in the air as they could get them and were fanning adamantly. The whole hive was now buzzing a very loud happy “HMMMMMM!” It was amazing to see and hear!
I’ve never heard a roaring elated humming sound before. It was as if the bees were happily screaming as loud as they could “We found the queen! The queen! The queen!” I was filled with joy seeing how happy they were. These poor bees were devastated they were left behind and ecstatic to be home. I’m glad I saved them. I would do it again a thousand times. It was well worth it to just to see and hear how happy the reunion made them. It is one of those bee moments I will never forget.