“Do you think we oughta do a commercial for Scott Derrick?”

“I think we just did!”

“The Swarm Commander works!”

Nothing we like more than happy customers.

Yeah look, we’re not ones to pat ourselves too often or too heartily on the back. But when the Blythewood Bee Company sees our east coast beekeepers out in the field, using our products, and reaping in the fruits? Well, we just feel helping ourselves to another honey-spread scone and hollering praise to another bee-e-a-utiful day.

Hit play on the above video, and you’ll see (or at least hear) beekeepers Mike Ross and Tom Montgomery handling a honey bee swarm. They’re using Swarm Commander – a premium swarm lure product, and the most popular of its kind in America. You can find it stocked on our company shelves, both in-store and online – $19.95 for a 1oz spray bottle, $22.95 for a 1oz gel, and $29.95 for a 2oz spray bottle. Spray or swab it inside a clean hive or nuc you want to populate, place it near to a swarm you want to capture (upwind, so the bees get a straight hit of its scent), and you’ll have boxed a live one for yourself in no time at all.

In the video comments, Mike – who’s mentoring first-year beekeeper Tom in the trade – provides testimony:

“The video just started as I set the nuc down and walked away. I sprayed one squirt on the top of a frame when I drove up and saw all the bees in the air at the hive and set the nuc upwind about 20ft from the hive.”

Within minutes, hundreds of bees began marching in the hive entrance. They didn’t even need to book a real estate agent or arrange a home inspection – they took to their new digs like it was a Malibu mansion.

Whether domestic or feral, swarming can happen for any number of reasons. It can be triggered when the hive is damaged from crazy winds, or when the queen isn’t pulling her weight on the egg-laying, young-making side of things. Most of the time though, it comes down to cramped living quarters. As the colony grows in number and the hive has no new ‘extension work’ done (i.e. no supers added), it becomes impossible for the tenants to live comfortably. They get crabby. It’s understandable – they can’t work as well as they used to, they’re constantly having to squeeze past one other, they’re battling heat, and there’s no more room to store honey. Swarming is the bee exodus that solves the problem.

But it’s not as if the bees yell “Okay! I’ve had enough! I’m outta here!”, and split. Instead, swarming is a coordinated, well-timed venture, planned in advance. In the week or so prior, a new queen will have been born – she’ll remain with the original hive, where the old queen zooms off with the new. The fresh start will mean the end to frustration for both colonies, and once settled, the swarm can build brood, draw comb and store honey from scratch.

Where is home though? Typically, there’s no shortage of wild real estate for the swarm to choose from. If not captured, bees are happy to set up in any number of locations – hollow logs, wood cabin crannies, old bird boxes. While the rest of the swarm has some chill time, hanging off each other in a bunched lattice from a tree branch or road sign, a few worker bee scouts go reconnoitering for the ideal home.

Though March’s dust-munching Padres and Rockies would have you thinking otherwise, there’s no need to sound any “nuclear bomb drill” if a vagabond bee cloud descends upon you. As Mike, clad in simple pleat shirt, cap and jeans tells the camera, “A swarm is nothing to worry about folks. You can get right in there amongst them. They can be all around you. You can stand right in the middle of them.”

He’s not lying. Though the more cautious could think about wearing a protective suit or at least hanging back a little, swarms are as tame as kittens for the most part. Without any brood to play ‘overprotective mom’ to, and no honey treasure to defend, there’s just no reason for them to be aggressive. What’s more, the bees are likely to have a case of post-feast drowsiness. Aware that their new home won’t have anything stocked in the pantry (so to speak), bees about to swarm will fill their little bee bellies full of honey before their journey out. It makes them heavier in their movements, and more placid overall.

Interested in catching a swarm? You didn’t even hear it from us – our customers have spoken: Swarm Commander is a great, hands-free and hassle-free way to go about it. Once you’ve applied the product, all you really need to do is sit back, watch, and lick your lips in anticipation of more honey to come.

By Kate Prendergast

 

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