Let me tell you something about bees. They can be real bitches sometimes. This is a swarm today from a hive I just checked four days ago. No swarm cells, plenty of room to roam. And here they are, swarming out this afternoon. Then, just after that swarm had landed, another swarm quite literally started from the hive right next to that one. That one likewise had an inspection four days ago. These two hives were the one I thought had gone queenless but had not; they turned out to be strong, vigorous hives. Perhaps too strong and my lesson learned: obviously we are doing something right here because we have strong bees. Obviously I am doing something wrong, and next season, instead of looking for signs of impending swarms, I will just go ahead and make splits without waiting, knowing now that they are incredibly hardy.
Having said that, they are also sometimes incredibly annoying. The second swarm went not just to the same tree, which would have been very convenient, but to the very same branch, which is not. The combined weight of the two swarms bowed the branch to the ground as you see in the second picture.
I set up two boxes and tried to separate the clumps to attempt to get a queen in each box, but missed. The bees from the second box went into the first after I dumped them into that second box, resulting in a gigantic batch of bees in the first box. So, I improvised a little. I took several frames from the full box and shook them into the second, hoping like hell that one queen was now in the second box. Then I put a queen excluder on the first box and put the second box on top, with the top cover propped open. This way, the queens cannot pass through between the boxes, but the workers can. What I am hoping is the fanning the bees do at the entrance of the stack (at the bottom) and the fanning at the cover (at the top) will call all the workers into their proper spaces. If this works, I can then just remove the top box off to its own place, and presto: both swarms captured. We will see how that works.
Here’s a closer look at the two swarms sharing the same branch.
That is a fair number of bees, yes. I’m hopeful they’ll stay.