I recently captured a small swarm. We had some debate about taking it on as a third hive, but the expense of a new hive was really the factor that led us to deciding against it. Both M and I had noticed that the Urania bees, normally easy going, were defensive and impatient. They were likely to bump us as we went about our normal business near the hive. I opened the telescoping cover to see how things were and found a gang of bees with their tails up. I closed the cover right away, not wanting to challenge the patience of angry honey bees.
I moved the honey super with the swarm to the other side of the garden. Right away the Urania girls calmed down. I'm curious -- there are plenty of folks with hives side by side, and then there's our hive getting pissy with a honey super and about 200 bees two feet away and on the ground. How close is too close in beehives? And what makes two hives compatible?
Back to the swarm - I contacted Mark from the local bee guild. We talked on the phone, he was excited that I'd done the heavy lifting part of the capture. ;) I explained that all we wanted was to find a home for the girls. He also thought it was a proper swarm when he heard they had been building comb on my fence. He came out Wednesday afternoon and met with M. They opened the hive and took a look. They did not find a queen, but the workers were working on the drawn comb frames in the honey super and even storing pollen in some cells. Mark speculated that the queen and some of the workers may have swarmed again, leaving behind this community of lonely girls.
What I've read so far has said that queenless bees are despondent and unmotivated. Reading about it is one thing, and seeing it is another. The girls were huddled together on the frame making a hamburger sized cluster. When I had pulled the frame out before, there was no buzz, no guard bees flying up, nothing. They just sat in a huddle, dejected. As I said to M today - there is nothing sadder than a sad bee.
Mark recommended that we shake the bees out by the hive, and hope that Urania accepts the bees. The frames in the super the bees have been residing in has attracted a bit of mold. Yesterday, M decided to place the entire super and wayward bees on the top of Urania. Urania and the bees can clean up the frames. The other hope is the Urania bees, not seeing these bees "enter" the hive, will accept them as part of the group. Hopefully the guard bees will just see these bees coming downstairs and think nothing of it. He also noted that the top most honey super (placed on July 5) was about 2/3 full of capped honey.
The hive was acting normally today, busy with activity and not hostile. I'm curious to take a peek on them soon to see if the swarm has broken apart and if Urania is working in the newest super. I imagine they'll be storing honey in there in no time since the frames all have drawn comb. My cousin is coming out tomorrow to meet the bees, so we'll take a peek then as long as the bees allow.
We're tenatively scheduling another harvest for August 22 or 23. The next few weekends are abuzz with birthdays and travel. I'm interested to see what our girls produce next!