Well, what looks like bees getting ready to swarm sometimes is only bees getting ready to swarm.
Last night, they did settle down and went back into the hive.  There was normal, busy activity this morning on a day that has been the warmest in weeks.  In the early afternoon I went out to check them again and immediately saw that things had notched up several degrees in intensity.  There were thousands of bees in the air, moving about in a frenzied swirl.  It wasn't long that they began to rest on the trunk and one limb of a recently dead scotch pine near the hive.  (See the short video "First Swarm" at the bottom of the page.)
Kathy went in to get some honey and I got the 5 frame nuc box I had made last year.  We put some honey on the frames in the nuc and I set it right under the swarm, with the lid slightly ajar.  There were still many bees joining the swarm, so I didn't want to try to take it right then.  Besides, we had to leave for a couple hours.  My thoughts were they would remain in this location for awhile.  Wrong again.  When I checked right away after getting home, the swarm had already departed.  I had really hoped they would opt to go into the box.  Not so lucky.
So, now the question is this:  what the heck do we do?  After reviewing what information I have and checking out things on the web, as with almost every aspect of beekeeping there are way too many "expert" opinions on what to do.  My impulse was to go in and scrape away all but one swarm cell in the hive.  It seems most agree that, if there are multiple swarm cells, either  the next new queen will sting and eliminate the others and take over as the ruling monarch, or we may face a succession of afterswarms, in which each new virgin queen takes off with a number of bees, continually diminishing the strength of the hive.  Michael Bush, whose advice I listen carefully to, says, I think, it is best to leave the cells alone. You don't know which is the strongest or best.  I might kill off all but one only to find that the remaining queen is weak or doesn't even survive.  Then we are left queenless.  He suggests letting the bees decide and the right queen will eventually take charge of the hive.  
I thik I will follow that advice, though I find inaction hard to take.  I will go in later in the week and see what is going on there at least.
Why did it happen?  I had reversed hives, removed some old honey frames and replaced them with fresh, hoping there would be enough room for the queen to lay her eggs.  This was a very vigorous queen, though, and for two years in a row we came through the winter with huge numbers in each hive and still a ton of honey  left.  I think she simply didn't have enough room for the brood.  That I will have to watch more carefully in the future.
I know we'll feel sad for a bit, mostly with the thought we maybe could have better monitored the situation.  We'll now likely not get as much honey as we had hoped.  But, maybe we still will.  At any rate, it was an interesting experience.  Just hope it doesn't happen too often.


  1. Sounds like you might be able to trap some other feral colony by just leaving out your trap for a while with some kind of lemon lure. http://saulcreekapiary.com/swarm%20trap%20use.htm

  2. Yep, Bessie got some lemongrass oil from the Coop and we put that out this morning, in a nuc along one of the main bee flyways. If either hive swarms, hopefully they'll be attracted. Good idea, Jess.


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