The arrival of the bees

A couple of months ago, I put a bait hive out in my garden. An empty National brood box, apart from a dark old brood comb pushed to one side and some lemongrass oil smeared on the walls. Then I waited.

At first… nothing. But then… I saw some bees coming in and out, inspecting the empty premises. The next day, it was clear something was afoot. More and more bees could be seen around the entrance, until the air in my garden was filled with masses of humming bees. I went and stood outside, looking at the sheer number of them. You can see them against the white wall in the photos below.

The swarm descends

The swarm descends

Bees fill the air

Bees fill the air

But often life is not easy, and so this was not quite as simple as I was hoping. The bees had come to me – fantastic – but they’d also landed not inside but under the bait hive.

Bees under the hive

Swarm under the hive

The next day, I went out in my beesuit and attempted to gather them up. I used some highly specialist equipment for this job – a bee brush and a bucket. Although this was obviously an easy place to gather a swarm from, it still meant a bit of squeezing myself under the picnic table, hovering holding the bucket with one hand while brushing the bees in with the other as gently as possible.

Just in the space of about 24 hours, they’d made the beautiful, pristine comb below, which the swarm was gathered on under the table. The wax is produced by glands in their abdomen, which they then chew and manipulate into the perfectly formed honeycomb shapes using their mandibles. Pretty amazing when you think about it.

Fresh comb

Freshly made new comb

My first attempt failed and the bees quickly reverted to hanging out under the table. I realised I must not have gathered up the queen, so they had all returned to her.

On my second attempt, I tried to make sure to get almost every single bee. This time the bees lined up on top of the frames, lifted their bottoms and fanned their Nasonov glands, which I took as a good sign. They were telling the other bees that this was now home.

Putting the bees in the hive

Putting the bees in the hive

A couple of months later, the bees are still here. I have named the new queen Lowen, which means ‘Joyful’ in Cornish.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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17 Responses to The arrival of the bees

  1. Granny Roberta says:

    Wax glands are in the belly, not the legs. Just blame autocorrupt. : )

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  2. disperser says:

    Nice. Do you still have the other hives? I ask because I thought they were at another location.

    Are you going to keep this one in your garden?

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  3. hencorner says:

    How exciting!
    Unfortunately, I was recovering from Covid during May and had to redirect all the swarm calls that I’d received – even though I was hoping for a couple to keep for myself.
    Then I discovered that a swarm had moved into an empty hive on my allotment, fabulous, but they didn’t go in via the entrance to a perfectly ready new home, they found a gap under the roof and built beautiful comb in an empty super!
    Fortunately I was able to transfer them quite easily 🐝🐝🐝

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  4. Katharine says:

    That’s amazing!

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  5. For me there is nothing more exciting than seeing a swarm arrive. Once we had a hive swarm and go underneath the mother hive! We had not noticed it was under the hive and thought we had lost it. It was an experienced beekeeper that saw them and helped us hive them. Imagine making all that lovely comb outside when they could have set up so well inside! They just like to keep us guessing. Amelia

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  6. rickwar04 says:

    Congratulations to you and your new bees . Life is good and then you get free bees ,priceless ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️🐝🐝🐝🍯🍯

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  7. Very interesting story about the bees, hope you are OK.

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