What is tanging? Basically, beekeepers use some sort of device, an old cooking pot for instance, to make a loud noise by beating it with a spoon or stick, while chasing an escaping swarm. It is thought this may convince the bees that a storm with...
What is tanging? Basically, beekeepers use some sort of device, an old cooking pot for instance, to make a loud noise by beating it with a spoon or stick, while chasing an escaping swarm. It is thought this may convince the bees that a storm with thunder is approaching and they need to find a place to land, now, and then the beekeeper can capture them and return them to their home.
When a beekeeper sees a swarm leave one of their hives, they will chase the swarm to recapture and return it to the apiary. While chasing it, the beekeeper typically crosses the property of several people, and by beating on a pan while chasing the swarm, will let property owners know that 1) the swarm of bees is theirs, and 2) the beekeeper is not there to trespass and offers no danger to the land owner.
Or…Perhaps both, but isn't tanging and drumming the same? Not quite.
When beekeepers want to move bees out of, say, a section of a hollow tree, they cut the tree, remove the section the colony is in and take it home. Then, they cut the bottom of this just so that there is a hole large enough for the bees to get through, turn the tree section upside down so the hole is now on top, place a new hive, skep or container on the section, and begin to ‘drum’ on the sides with a stick or old spoon. The sounds and effects of this cause the bees to want to leave, and leaving through the hole on what’s now the top is the only way to go. The beekeeper continues this until all the bees have moved up.
Kim and Jim briefly explore both of these older beekeeping techniques in today’s show. But turn the volume up, it’s loud out there.
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Jim: Beekeeping has a long history, and things that were done a long time ago are not always done now, but one that comes up sometimes at meetings and one some things that you guys bring up is tanging. What did he say? Tanging.
Kim: Yes, what did he say?
Kim: Tanging. I've heard of it. I know a little bit about the concept. Tell me what are you hearing at the meetings?
Jim: Well, listen, interesting concept. Hi, I'm Jim Tew.
Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.
Jim: We're here today with Honey Bee Obscura. We're on Thursday mornings, we meet and talk about anything beekeeping, and today we've chosen the hot topic of tanging. What did you say? (laughs)
Intro: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honey bees in today's world engaging and informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long-timers, and those just starting the journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.
Jim: Tanging. [chuckles] T-A-N-G-I-N-G. Basically, Kim a swarm is in flight and you're trying to desperately do whatever it takes to bring it down.
Kim: The little bit I know about it is that that's swarm is left my hive and those are still my bees and I want them to come down so I can capture them, but suddenly I got a neighbor's fence I got to go over and then I got to somebody else's property line I got to cross.
Jim: You got all kinds of problems.
Kim: I do and what I got to do is I got to tell these people that I'm not trespassing and I'm not here to steal their cows or horses but I'm chasing bees and the way they know I'm chasing bees because I'm beating on a pot.
Jim: Well, you're beating on something, beating on our heads might be just as effective. When that swarm’s leaving - we've had some swarm discussions about the swarm has that got away and how painful it is - but to my understanding, Kim, you and I are on the right track. A lot of what we have in our beekeeping lives here we got from British beekeepers and from worldwide beekeepers. Those small villages close together all those years ago, people keeping bees in skeps, those skep beekeepers would use brimstone, sulfur smoke, to kill them. I don't know. Let's just say he had 10 skeps, he would gas 7 of those skeps and then collect the honey and the wax. Then from those other three, he wanted them to build up and swarm. Then he wanted to capture those swarms and put them back in those seven skeps he had sacrificed to harvest the crop from but imagine this, Kim, this swarm came out and flew away.
He was supposed to get the swarm. In theory now - this is an urban legend - this is a story that's in the books. In theory, if he made a ruckus, he could climb fences, cross boundary lines, run through gardens, go through clothes lines, do whatever it took, trying to keep his swarm in sight as it settled. Now, we've had some swarm biology sessions here, he’s got to be worrying about that bivouac flight because if that swarm has decided to go to its new nest site, he's got to run, maybe several miles in some cases. Clearly, he's hoping that swarm is going to settle someplace close, where he can bring his skep over and harvest that thing and go back and so beating on metal beating on a pan was supposed to have something to do with it.
Why can't they just yell, Kim? Why can't they just run along screaming and shouting? Why wouldn't that be better than going inside, getting a pan and a spoon, and coming back out? I've got some questions about this story! That was the whole deal, was that it was supposed to be a noise-making procedure to bring down the swarm. Now, let me be the first to tell you that there are plenty of beekeepers out there, who will tell you that they have tang swarms all their lives, and it works. I don't have any science. I have no reason to tell them that it doesn't work. I just don't have any way to tell them that it does work. Tanging swarms is something that we have done for hundreds of years and some beekeepers still do it.
Kim: Well, I know some of those beekeepers and what some of them have told me is that banging doesn't have anything to do with property lines or anything. What that banging does is it acts like thunder to a swarm.
Jim: I can back that up. Florida beekeepers - say, Florida beekeepers, you know who you are - but I don't want to point you out without getting permission to bring you into this fracas. At a Zoom meeting, a Florida beekeeper discussed the fact that sometimes thunder and lightning are thought to have be perceived by bees and that there could be some way that these airborne vibrations from this sound and the noise (tanging) that you're making is perceived by bees.
At that swarm moment, do something Kim, do something! People have run and gotten a water hose. People have tried brooms and brushes, do whatever it takes to finally get that queen and swarm to come out of the sky, and drop down close and hive it. Not wanting to do offend any of the swarm tangers out there, if you choose to swarm-tang, is probably as good as anything to help that swarm come down.
Kim: I haven't chased a lot of swarms in my day. I've chased a few, but I know people who chased a lot of them. The one thing I've always noticed, almost always, is that swarm is going to leave that colony and it's going to go 2 feet or 20 feet or maybe 200 yards, but it's going to stop because that swarm group, has not chosen its nest site yet. It's still to be decided. I think they're going to come down anyway, whether you're beating on a pan or whistling a tune. Am I right?
Jim: Well, you are. I'm trying to stay neutral here, but the thing I don't know is how many times do you tang and the bees still flew away? How many times do you tang and the bees come down? How long did you tang?
Kim: What do you use?
Jim: Yes, what do you use? Are you using too old worn-out iron frying pan? Are you just destroying an aluminum pan? Does the timbre of the metal that you're banging on make a difference? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, and Kim, I don't know the answers to any of those things, but the story stays out there.
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Jim: I had no idea I was going to mention this. Years ago, a guy came in working on the water system in my house and he divined the waterline. He walked around with the two bent metal rods in his hands, and he crossed the waterline, and he said, "See, they're crossing there." These lore things are in our lives. If you can divine water, you can tang swarms, and that's not to be confused - Kim - with drumming bees.
Sometimes I hear people explained that you drum bees to bring them out of the sky and that's a different old thing. When you drum bees, it was in the old days apparently. Help me out here now because I'm talking far beyond my experience in many cases, but I think you turn the old gum upside down that nuc.
Kim: Well, the pictures I've seen that's what they do. They got a chunk of tree that they brought home and they want to get them out of the tree into-- I'm looking at old woodcuts here, a skep.
Jim: Sometimes we did this too, our forefathers and mothers who'd kept bees did this with those old box hives, turn that upside down, and put a bee box on top.
Kim: Yes, same thing.
Jim: …-something on top of it and then rap on the side and drum the bees up into the new equipment.
Kim: That vibration then just makes life so uncomfortable in the box that they're in that they want to go to the box you're giving them?
Jim: Well, sure it does because I don't know any other thing. (chuckle) I don't have any other reason other than whatever you just said there. I don't know what they're doing, Kim. I don't know, but beekeepers who have drum bees said they do move up. What are you rapping with? Do you just wrap on the hive, the box with a hive tool? Do you-- I'm not going to do it with my hands! You have to…..
Kim: You use that same spoon that you were tanging that pot with.
Jim: If you still got that pan and the spoon, don't be ugly now Kim. Don't be ugly.
Jim: These things are in the old literature and beekeepers have practiced them, and Kim and I are being snippy about it. (light laughter) I don't have the basis for opinion -- I don't know that these things work or don't work. I don't see a mechanism in most cases. I don't know why drumming on the side of a bee colony would have any effect on the behavior of bees inside. The fact that I don't know doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.
Kim: I don't know why either, but I do know that it works at least sometimes. I've seen it work.
Jim: It does – sometimes.
Kim: Here's another piece of that puzzle. If I'd to turn that thing upside down and put a box on the top, would they have gone up there anyway?
Jim: Well, when you said it works sometimes, how many times does it not work? Does it work statistically often enough to be the reason that it's….. (light frustration) -- I don't know. You choose this topic. I didn't choose this topic.
I have tried to tang swarms. I can't say that it worked, but I can't say that spraying a moving swarm with water worked either. I can't say that chasing a swarm with a brood frame stuck on the end of a paint roller handle - that didn't work either. All you do is just hope they come down. If you believe in tanging and you've tanged before and you liked it, then have at it. Just to be clear, tanging and drumming are not the same thing. Drumming is pounding on the side of the colony.
For me, drum for some unknown length of time, some unknown rhythm, some unknown location on the box, and some unknown number of bees will move out.
Kim: [laughs] Okay. I think the only thing we can know it's about time we head out here today.
Jim: Yes. It's about time to head out. I love this old stuff. You know we have a tremendous history and just because it's old, it doesn't mean it doesn't work. Not next week but about next Thursday, let's talk about something else as confusing.
Kim: Okay. I'll see you then.
Jim: I'll be there then. Bye-bye.
[00:12:37] [END OF AUDIO]