I had a call today about a honey bee swarm. It’s late in the season for swarms, although I have caught and overwintered swarms caught in late September. I had two calls last week, both turned out to be yellow jackets.
This swarm was only a few miles from the house, so I was going to swing by for a look on the way home from camp. The home owners were at work, but gave the wife good directions on where they were hanging. As I pulled in, I could see them from the driveway. My first reaction was, wow, that’s a big swarm. I don’t think I could fit them in a five gallon bucket. On closer inspection, things became clear. What I saw I’d only seen one other time in over 45 years of keeping bees.
A swarm had landed on a branch of the tree ( probably a month ago, maybe longer ). They failed to find a hollow tree, an attic, anything that would protect them from the elements. So they began to draw comb there on the branch of the tree. It looked like they built 5 combs each about a foot square. Bees were coming and going, probably working nearby Japanese knotweed for pollen and nectar.
They were too high to reach without a bucket truck, and coupled with the lateness of the season, I opted to leave them be. They posed no danger to the homeowners. They won’t survive winter, probably be dead before Thanksgiving. Had they been more accessable and a little earlier in the season, I might have cut them down and attached their comb on empty frames and tried to hive them. But trying to remove that much drawn comb would cause a lot of commotion, and what bees I would leave behind would have been very defensive and be a stinging hazard for the property owner.