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October Swarm?

It’s October 19. For a Beekeeper in Central Virginia, that typically means we have had our first frost. Most blooming things are dead or dying, nectar has stopped and only old, dried pollen remains for the next few months. So, if you are a honey bee in Central Virginia, swarming today would really be a bad idea. Typically, no resources to build a new nest with and no resources to (then) store in the nest for the Winter.

Be that as it may, I received a swarm call last night. A nice fellow in the parts Department at Royal Chevrolet on Broad Street called to say that they had a ‘basketball size clump’ of bees on the fence in the back lot. Being a bit of a skeptic (this is October, after all…), I was pretty sure this was not honey bees. But, the fellow was adamant. Said they had been flying all over the place in a bit whirlwind earlier in the day and then settled on the back fence. I have to say that this had me wondering – that DOES sound like a swarm. But, in October?

Today, I left work about 11:45 and rushed over there to check (Brian had called at 9 am to say that they were still there, although a bit lethargic from the rain we received last night). Box in hand, I hived an above average sized swarm. It probably was the size of a basketball and maybe a bit bigger! Very docile bees (I think because of the temperature and the fact that they were a bit damp), but healthy nonetheless.

The odds of this thing making it over the Winter are pretty slim. I can augment them with honey tomorrow, but I do not have any spare frames of pollen. It looks like I will need to feed them pollen substitute over the Winter – although I have to wait until a frost comes to reduce the chance of a SHB infestation. On the plus side, I had a bunch (6 or so) of empty, drawn deep frames that I was fretting about (wax moth over the Winter) and now they are part of a new hive. I do not have high expectations and they will probably be more work then they are ‘monetarily’ worth, but I will enjoy the challenge. If they live, I’ll get another shot in the gene pool. But, to be honest, I think I picked up 3 other swarms from that area this year anyway. The bee population to the west of the Powhite out a bit past U of R is pretty healthy it seems.

This hive will, of course, be called ‘The Ole Chevy’. My best guess is that this is not a swarm, but an example of absconding. The hive’s original home must have been disturbed somehow, so they up and left. We’ll see. More updates to follow as the Winter passes (hopefully.)

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