Swarm Call 2 – “There’s Another Bee Swarm Near The Power Lines”

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.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Bee Swarm Call 1 – “There’s A Bee Swarm On The Power Lines”
  2. Flame Duct Tape, A Rock, Orange String And Debbie’s Bee Swarm
  3. My First Bee Swarm
  4. Duct Tape, A Rock And A String Saved My Swarm
  5. In Case You’re Wondering Bees Can Chew Through Garden Row Cover

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.

7 Comments

  1. “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.”

    I love that quote. I feel the same way. We got the left over bees after the first beekeeper left. Frankly, I was surprised he didn’t leave the box there until night. If I remember correctly, one of the neighbors told me she had asked him about the foragers and scouts, and he had said that they’ll just die. Lucy and I called him the “Bad Beekeeper”.

    • Thanks Mil! I’m glad you showed up for those bees! I love how you used a frame to draw them out. I want to try that the next time I have extra comb. What are you planning to do with those left behind bees? Are you going to give them a frame of brood or integrate them into an existing colony?

  2. I may have run into the same problem. I collected a small swarm at work last week, right out on the road in front of the shop (surprise!). A fellow from across the streeet said there was a larger swarm about a week and a half before behind their shop that he said they chased off. My qualifications for beekeeping are… well, I am “YouTube certified”, so I have absolutely no frame of reference for the sounds a hive will make sans queen. I only built my first hive in February, and these are my first bees. I was able to collect and place the swarm without any protective gear and no stings. They have stayed in the top bar hive for 5 days now. I have seen bees with their bums in the air, but not sure if this is the behavior you described. I have opened the hive, but not moved the bars the bees are on. I dont see any evidence of comb. Any comments?

    • If the bees are not building comb, you probably do not have a queen. I would try to give them a new queen asap. Also bees without a queen will sometimes fan with their butts in the air for days to try to entice a new queen into the hive.

      • On inspection Monday evening, 6 days since collection I did see some comb being drawn out. There was about 3+ inches on one bar and about a quarter size on another. I will be seeking a local source for a queen through the Olympia Beekeepers.

        • You should try feeding them as well – 1:1 sugar syrup. But if they do not have a queen they will not survive. Sometimes small swarms will take a while to draw comb, check for eggs, larvae and capped brood in the comb and if it is worker brood you have a queen.

  3. love this story! I would of done the same. My family has cherry orchards and we get bees every spring at the end of their stay on the orchard we get so many queen less swarms all the time because the beekeeping companies pick the bees up in the middle of the day leaving thousands of ladies behind. It’s heartbreaking to hear and see.