Several hours after transferring the bees to their new home, I went out to finish setting up the hive and saw this:
Full of curiosity, I went over for a closer look. I saw some bees going in and out of the entrance, but some were not going into the hive. Instead they were joining a group of bees on the outside of the hive. My dad asked me “if this was normal,” to which I replied “I don’t think so, but maybe they were still getting re-orientated.”
After checking on the hive, several times throughout the evening. We were convinced that something was wrong. After doing some research we narrowed down the possibilities, it was either a pre-swarm party, or the hive’s cooling system.
Since the bees were not close to the door fanning it, we concluded they were not trying to lower the hive’s temperature, but instead were getting ready to swarm. This was consistent with the fact when we moved the hive it looked like they were getting ready to swarm or had swarmed since there had been two empty queen cells.
So what is a swarm? Swarms are when the bees divide the hive to create more hives. It happens when a hive gets too big for the queen to communicate with all the bees in the hive. This lack of communication causes the bees to create several new queens, these new queens will battle to ensure the best genetics for the hive. However, when the bees create a new queen, the old queen will take about half the bees and leave the hive. Afterwards, they will find a place to wait until they find a location to call home. Apparently, the outside of the hive and roof was just such a place.
Great, so where would they go? I did not know. Would this happen again? Probably, I am not completely sure, but swarms generally happen between April and July. Some say that swarms can happen every year or two. The good news is a hive usually only swarm once per year. So what am I going to do? How can I capture swarms? Well, I used a bee-vac to remove them the tree originally, so a bee-vac should work in this situation. However, that would require me to get a bee-vac. Knowing that I should get a bee-vac sooner than later, we decided to order one.
However, before I had an opportunity to order the bee-vac, I discovered that all the bees on the outside were gone. Anxiously I began to search all the trees nearby, only to find nothing. Discouraged that I had just lost about half of my bees, I went off with a heavy heart to set gopher traps.
While checking the front yard for any gopher activity, I also checked the trees in the area for the swarm of bees. That is when I found a small group of bees huddled together on a branch nearby the previous hive, probably about 12-15 feet off the ground. What a relief, I could capture this group and expand the apiary.