Arrived at our scheduled bee removal site in Redwood City today a little before 10:30 AM. It was such a nice morning and when we parked the car we saw good entrance activity from the colony we are about to relocate.
Below the bees have just started to swarm
While we were preparing our equipment for the job all of the sudden the colony throws off a swarm. Now thousands of bees in the air. The roof is now covered with bees landing, scattered all over but with three SMALL main clusters that just started to form. That’s where we went searching for queens and sure enough, I captured the first in the queen catcher. Asked Christophe for a cardboard box to temporarily house them in.
Then I went around looking for a second queen. But while walking to the second closest cluster I noticed a queen a few feet away on the edge of a skylight. She flew off immediately after I spotted her. I didn’t see where she landed. Could have been in cluster #3. Anyways, I dig into cluster #2 with my dad and I found the second queen. She was running all over the place but eventually caught her. Asked Christophe who asked his wife Delphine to get yet another box to house this second swarm.
Queen cells. Upper one the queen has already emerged. The one below is still capped.
I left swarm number three for my dad to check out while Christophe and I started removing the metal roofing. Then all of the sudden my dad brings up my homemade queen catcher, as we now ran out of queen catchers, and said he thinks he caught a queen. I examine the bees inside and sure enough, queen #3!!! And we haven’t even cut into the original bee colony yet. Asked for a third box and again housed these bees.
I believe all three of these queens are virgins that just swarmed this morning, perhaps one before I arrived as there was already a cluster on the roof, and then two more when I arrived. These queens are small but large enough to not escape through slits on the queen cage.
It was a fairly easy cutout today. The Chicago Multitool from Harbor Freight Tools helped greatly. I was able to make a precise cut into the plywood roof and removed a section about 1×2 feet, pulled up and exposed most of the hive. And guess what, QUEEN #4 was on the few pieces of combs that were still attached to the piece of plywood we pulled up! She, like the other three, are quite small. In addition, we found two capped queen cells. This hive would have swarmed at least two more times.
So here’s what I think happened. The original queen swarmed about 20 days ago. Christophe and Dalphine said that they saw something that looked like a swarm a while back. That would be right. Swarm season started around March 1st of our area this year. With the original queen gone, it left the hive with only what brood it already laid before the original queen swarmed. Of course there were capped and uncapped queen cells to replace her. I noticed zero eggs and zero larvae in the comb sections that were removed today. And only a few soon to emerge capped worker and drone cells. So about this time the new queens started to emerge, thus throwing off these multiple swarms.
We were there today only prepared to remove the one colony but ended up going home with three swarms in cardboard boxes and a small colony of bees from the soffit. There were very little honey left inside the hive as it has swarmed many times already. And of course with three current swarms outside there weren’t too many bees inside the hive. Almost no pollen inside as well. These bees were ready to move off and start new colonies.
After the removal was complete we brought all the bees back to my yard, shook them into hives with the queens still caged, making a total of six hives in my small yard. We’ll be release the queens this week as nice 70s weather is upon us after a long rainy Spring.
BTW, while driving home from Redwood City I received a swarm call in San Jose. I was definitely not prepared for another hive so I skipped. Then after dinner I received another call for a bee removal in San Carlos. They have a hive in a tree that they said it was time for the bees to go. This would be a trapout situation for sure as the tree cannot be cut down.
This week, more swarms will happen. We will be putting together more hive boxes and foundationless frames to house these honey bees.