We were wandering around the lake side apiary and got called over to one of the birdboxes by the head bailiff who had spotted a swarm of honeybees in residence in a birdbox about 3m up in a tree.
We decided not to disturb it through the winter as it would have been difficult for it to survive and be able to store enough food for the long period of cold, dark Winter days and nights.
Returning after an extend cold Spring we finally managed to attempt to remove it and cut it out of the birdbox and move it into a nucleus box.
Retrieving the swarm inside the bird box was actually quite straightforward. I'm not great working at height but once the bees were sealed inside it was relatively easy to lift the bird box out and break it away from the wooden support that was nailed into the tree.
Opening the bird box revealed a fantastic brood nest that the honeybees had created over the late Autumn and Winter period from last year. It was easy to see how they had managed to survive with such a nice, enclosed area for their nest. It was full of brood and honey, all neatly stitched into the side walls of the bird box.
The priority was finding the queen, once the queen is safely into the nuc box the majority of the workers will follow her in and remain with her.
As luck would have it, she was on the side wall section that I removed at the start of the cut out. This allowed me to easily move her onto a frame of comb that I cut out and tied into the empty frame.
Having all of the brood comb cut out and tied into frames allowed me to set up the nuc and allows the honeybees to rebuild the comb into the frames. It was a sticky mess and it feels awful destroying their hard work but it does allow me to create a new colony in a nuc which can be moved to another apiary and built up into a full sized colony for the Summer.
The final task was to place the nuc box back into the tree to collect any flying bees that remained. It's always easier when there is a natural branch to provide support. Once the nuc was strapped together tightly it was just a case of taking it back into the tree and using another strap to fix it to the main tree trunk.
I'll be back in a few days to remove the nuc box and take it to another apiary. If you get a chance to perform a simple cut out give it a go, take you time and be gentle with the bees.
If you're working at height, always have someone to help you and make sure you feel comfortable working in that position. Never put yourself in danger, the rewards do not justify taking undue risks.
Stay safe and enjoy your beekeeping!
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